Possible tornado destroys condo buildings in Crescent Beach

CRESCENT BEACH, Fla. – Wind ripped the roofs and sides off about a dozen condominiums at five buildings of the Summerhouse Beach and Racquet Club early Monday morning while some people at the complex were riding out Hurricane Irma.

"(It was) sheer terror," property manager and tenant Jon Davis said. "The wind was unbelievable. That's not anything you want to hear in the middle of the night. It just seemed to go on forever."

A National Weather Service team was at the property Tuesday to determine if the damage was the result of a tornado.

"You see damage in one direction and in another, so that does suggest a tornado that probably came through. (It) probably came in off the ocean," NWS meteorologist Pete Wolf said. "Likely winds 90, 100 mph, maybe more than that."

Residents who had evacuated returned to the complex Tuesday to find their homes destroyed.

"Sometimes, you got to look at it and be thankful you're still standing," Allen Girard said. "This is gone, but we can build again -- someday, somewhere, but not here."

News4Jax chief meteorologist John Gaughan was tracking the local effects of Irma when he noticed a signature of a tornado on radar that indicated rotation and mentioned it on the air at 1:05 a.m. 

"Right out here, just to the east of I-95, shows a couplet right here," Gaughan said, pointing at the radar. "We're seeing high winds. It updated again. It's hard to determined exactly what the wind speeds are, but (at least) 60 mph."

"Only way you could tell what was going on was checking the news, and I get (Channel) 4 programming on my iPad" Girard said. "I am thankful to you guys."

The NWS will likely release its detailed damage report on Wednesday, and it will included the cause, estimated wind speeds, path and duration.

"It's one of those things you see only on TV and you hope it never happens to you, and then when you see it, it's unbelievable. The pictures can't tell it. You have to be here to see it," Davis said.