MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Powerful storms swept through the Ocala and Silver Springs area Thursday afternoon, causing damage described in part by the National Weather Service in Jacksonville as trees and powerlines “twisted together.”
According to an update at 7:55 p.m., the NWS confirmed wind damage reported at 4:45 p.m. out of Silver Springs was “likely from downburst winds.”
Downbursts are straight line winds, i.e. thunderstorm winds with no rotation, and are the main way thunderstorms produce their damage; wind descending from the thunderstorm spreads out in all directions once hitting the ground and can reach speeds above 100 mph, according to the NWS.
Thousands of people lost power in Marion County during the storms, with most customers’ service restored by Friday morning. Drivers were told to expect traffic delays due to fallen trees and powerlines obstructing roadways, Ocala Fire Rescue said.
Robert Smith, was impacted by intermittent power and a tree limb falling on his car port, adding its hard to predict how a storm will impact the area.
“The main limb had come down and the truck was sitting in there and it never touched that truck, but you can see the poles are all bent,” Smith said. “It snapped off up there quite a ways.”
Doug Embick, who had a large tree fall on his home during this time, recalled wind and rain blowing horizontal down the street.
“The next thing I know I heard something fall and I looked out the little octagon window here and I saw the tree down,” Embick said News 6. “As long as we’re OK, everything’s OK.”
Embick said the damage to his house actually looks worse than it was.
“I heard my neighbhor’s yard was on fire and there was another house that got hit by lightning out here somewhere and it burned,” Embick said. “Could have been a whole lot worse.”
“A witnessed lightning strike” was also blamed for setting a house on fire in Ocala, firefighters said.
Ocala Electric Utility said in a Facebook post Friday it was working to actively restore power to 1,317 affected customers as of 2:13 p.m.