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Zoo animals unharmed after possible tornado whips through Sanford

Early Thursday winds split trees, scattered debris

SANFORD, Fla. – A line of severe storms moved through Sanford early Thursday morning, causing damage to trees and property, including at the Central Florida Zoo.

In a news release, zoo spokesperson Sarrah LaSuer said all animals and zoo staff are safe. In the release, Zoo Director Stephanie Williams said the damage, which is primarily to trees near the entrance of the zoo, is believed to have come from a tornado.

Williams said they were aware that bad weather was expected to move through the area, so they were able to prepare for it.

"We did our normal. It's our normal process for severe weather. We know it's coming in, we make sure everything ... in terms of umbrellas and tarps and things are in place. We have no flying objects, no flying debris, things like that," Williams said.

Still though, Williams said zoo employees didn't expect the weather would be as bad as it was and that they were caught off guard by the strong winds Thursday morning.

A possible tornado also touched down Thursday west of Sanford in Lake County, tearing one home from its foundation and damaging seven other buildings.

Officials from the National Weather Service have not yet confirmed if the damage in Sanford and Lake County is from tornadoes.

The zoo itself will stay open Thursday. Williams said the animals have access to their night houses, so they are fully protected in the event of more bad weather.

The Seminole Aerial Adventures and the Little Florida Coastline train, which are attractions at the zoo, will be closed while crews clean up debris and assess damage.

[RAW VIDEO BELOW: Strong storms cause damage in Sanford]

Gusty winds also swirled through the city of Sanford, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.

Trees throughout the city were split in two and a railroad car was seen laying on its side. Surveillance video from a local business shows boxes flying off shelves and ceiling tiles falling as the wind blows the front door open.