PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — An EF1 tornado touched down in southern Pinellas County Thursday amid a round of severe storms that pummeled much of the Tampa Bay area, the NWS confirmed in a preliminary report to News Channel 8.
The weather service said the EF1 Tornado reached wind speeds of approximately 100 mph and was roughly 300 feet wide. The report added the tornado had a path of 2 miles.
WFLA Chief Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli predicted the severe storm likely produced a tornado hours before NWS confirmed the news. At the time, Berardelli said a cell came on shore around Treasure Island and moved just south of the Tyrone Square mall.
“Often times these things form when they’re over the bay or over the gulf, and sure enough this thing tightened up right when it was over the Intracoastal Waterway near Treasure Island,” he said.
“This is the circulation indicated on Doppler Radar where the bright green and red pixels meet,” Berardelli said. “It means winds are rotating and that is evidence of a likely tornado.”
Minutes after radar picked up the cell, Pinellas County first responders were dispatched to 9th Avenue North for several reports of downed trees and power outages.
St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lieutenant told Garth Swingle told News Channel 8 there was “definitely something weird” that moved through the area. No reported injuries have been reported.
NWS announced a meeting along the 5600 block of 9th Avenue to conduct a survey of the damage. They say they will let the public know later Thursday if the cell was a tornado.
A tornado watch is in currently in effect for Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Polk, and Sarasota counties. The storms are expected to break up around 3 p.m. as they continue south.