Freak wind tears through Chiefland

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Chiefland resident Tonya Keels knew something was wrong Saturday evening when she looked out a window and saw debris blowing across the fields that surround her family’s two-story farmhouse. She heard a loud noise and could feel a build up of pressure within the house.
“I said, ‘something’s wrong,’ ” and Keels, her husband and four children made their way to the house’s foyer and took cover.
“It wasn’t like I thought we were fixin’ to die,” she said, “but if it had kept on going, I might of thought we were going to.”
A strong blast of wind, lasting only 30 seconds or so at about 7 p.m., tore through the Keels’ property, throwing furniture from their porch, breaking a window and causing a door to slam so hard it ripped itself from its jamb.
Outside the house, the Keels discovered a path of destroyed trees and torn metal sheered from the roofs of several building on their property. A small barn, dating from the 1940s, was shoved off the pillars it had once stood upon.
“The thing like appeared down on us, went though and then left,” 11-year-old Johnny Keels said, standing next to the toppled tree fort that had been anchored to a 50-year-old loquat tree pulled up by it’s roots like weeds from a garden.
“That was my favorite tree,” Tonya Keels said.
Nobody was hurt in the storm, but Keels said there was about $30,000 worth of damage done to her family’s property.
Levy County Emergency Management Director Mark Johnson said Monday the storm was most likely what is referred to as a straight-line wind situation or microburst.
He said there were no reports from the National Weather Service of tornadoes in the area, though, he added, the service had warned of severe weather storms coming down from the north.
Johnson said a large tree was also uprooted along Manatee Road, blocking traffic, and a business was damaged when a tree fell on its roof.
Straight-line winds, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, can reach speeds up to 100 mph and account for more than half of all severe wind reports in most of the United States. Straight-line winds are generally any type of windstorms not associated with the rotational winds of tornadoes. Microbursts, also in this category, are relatively short-lived gusts of damaging winds that can reach speeds of 168 mph.
According to the NOAA, in 2010 there were 20 fatalities and 77 injuries in Florida attributed to wind storms. About $760 million in damages were reported.