ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — How Dave Kanaszka didn’t hear anything still confuses him.
“The storm came through and I hear the noise and everything going on,” Kanaszka recalled. “And it’s just normal rain.”
The only part of the storm the St. Petersburg resident noticed was how his door swung open when he retrieved his Amazon package from his front steps.
But the front that rolled through Florida on Dec. 15 was anything but normal, especially for Kanaszka and his neighbors.
“Next thing you know, the storm finished,” Kanaszka remembered. “It was gone.”
So, Kanaszka ventured outside.
“I walked out my back into the screen area and I looked out,” Kanaszka said. “It’s like I walked into a jungle because there’s this giant tree in my face.”
The 50-plus foot high oak tree that shaded his house for years had snapped in half near the base by the EF-1 tornado and its 100 mile-per-hour winds that briefly popped up in Pinellas County. In an instant, it undid the new backyard he and his wife finished just a month and a half ago — on her birthday.
“We had just finished our backyard,” Kanaszka said. “It was beautiful. We had everything done. We had a mini golf course, everything here. It was gorgeous and now it’s just covered in debris and everything’s broken.”
Also on the loose — a handful of chickens. The fallen tree collapsed on the hen house, sending them flying. Thankfully, all survived, and the Kanaszkas are counting their blessings.
“God was watching over us because the way it fell, it fell in between my house, in between my gazebo,” Kanaszka said. “The only place it could have fallen without killing somebody or doing some serious, serious damage.”
Thankfully, that seemed to be the case across most of St. Pete today.
“We did find that a lot of the damage didn’t injure anybody,” explained St. Petersburg Fire Rescue’s Lt. Garth Swingle. “Or hurt any of the homes structurally.”
Even a local preschool was spared after a tree smashed down during the school day
“We do have a school down here and made sure that nobody was injured,” Swingle said. “So everybody is safe, but everything’s been isolated to trees.”
As for Kanaszka’s tree, less than half an hour after the tree fell, he had a crew already cleaning up with tarps, shovels, wheelbarrows and chainsaws. Now, he’s going to have to get used to the new view.
“It looks funny now looking there and seeing sky,” Kanaszka said. “Because that’s where the tree always was.”
He estimated the damage around $10,000 to $20,000. The National Weather Service said the tornado was about 300 feet wide with a relatively short path — just a quarter of a mile. Duke Energy listed thousands of customers without power after the storm, but most were back before the end of the day.