Tornadoes hopscotched across the Tampa Bay area for hours Saturday, killing four people at mobile home parks and inflicting damage that looked like "a bomb blast," authorities said.
A two-day storm with winds gusting to 90 mph also was blamed for sinking a freighter. All 15 crew members were rescued after the 255-foot Holstein went down with 2,000 tons of flour late Friday in the Gulf of Mexico.The tornadoes killed four people at a mobile home park in Pinellas Park and one in nearby Largo, said the Pinellas County emergency medical services department. The National Weather Service said others were spotted in Ocala and Daytona Beach.
"It looks like a bomb blast - buildings down, roofs gone, windows out of cars," said Pinellas Park police spokesman Lee Lerchen.
Some homes were left a pile of splinters and roofs were torn down to the plywood in scenes reminiscent of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Andrew six weeks ago.
Police Sgt. Don Holcomb said the Largo tornado left damage in a path three miles long and a half-mile wide.
President Bush escaped one tornado by about 70 minutes, hopping aboard Air Force One at St. Petersburg-Clearwater Airport after the first of four Florida campaign stops.