Storms Bring Out a Mix of Damage and Benefits

Apr 1, 2011

The following article was published in the Daytona Beach News Journal on April 1, 2011:

Storms Bring Out a Mix of Damage and Benefits

By Dinah Voyles Pulver

A wild 24 hours of wind, rain and hail swept out of Volusia and Flagler counties Thursday afternoon, after taking off a few roofs and leaving a trail of downed power lines and trees.

Thousands remained without electricity late Thursday, but the storms also brought benefits, putting a major damper on fire conditions, at least for a couple of weeks.

Rainfall for the 24 hours varied widely across the two-county area, ranging from 1 1/2 inches to more than 4 inches, but still going a long way to help bring several active wildfires in the area under control.

“This certainly helps on the Division of Forestry front,” said state climatologist David Zierden at the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies in Tallahassee. “This is very welcome rainfall because we are entering the spring dry season.”

The rain will saturate soils and help recharge lakes, rivers and groundwater supplies, Zierden said. “However you can’t make up a 6 to 9 month rainfall deficit in one week.”

Area residents woke up Thursday morning to heavy lightning, howling winds, torrential rains and tornado warnings. But, though National Weather Service radars detected tornado-like rotation in several severe thunderstorms and posted a trio of tornado warnings in Volusia County, no major damage was reported.

In Port Orange, a weather service spotter reported a 30-foot tall tree fell on a home near the intersection of Spruce Creek Road and Sun Lake Drive, damaging a corner of the roof. Quarter-sized hail was reported Thursday afternoon at the Volusia-Flagler county line near the intersection of Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 and in Ormond-by-the-Sea.

The hail fell for about five minutes, pelting tractor-trailers in the parking lot of the Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store on U.S. 1, said store manager Elizabeth Page. “It was incredible.”

The near hurricane-force winds from Wednesday evening knocked out electricity to thousands of homes in Volusia and Flagler counties. Winds continued to down power lines throughout the morning Thursday, leaving thousands still waiting for service to be restored later in the early evening.

As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, 4,338 Progress Energy customers in Volusia County, about 5 percent of the company’s total customers in the county, were still without electricity.

“At the peak of the outages we had more than 270,000 customers (in Florida) without power,” a company spokesman said. Employees were “working around the clock to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible.”

As of 6:30 p.m., Florida Power & Light still had 2,300 customers without electricity in Volusia and 40 in Flagler, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, many residents spent Thursday cleaning up downed trees, limbs and debris, while a few others dealt with bigger cleanups.

In DeLand, employees at Berner’s auction scrambled to capture the water from numerous leaks that developed after gusts blew the waterproof covering off the flat roof on Wednesday afternoon. Inside the business workers covered furniture and antiques and placed several plastic containers on the floor to catch water.

“It completely rolled off and destroyed the whole roof,” Denise Berner said. She estimated the damage at about $50,000. The roof, installed after the 2004 hurricanes, wasn’t insured because they could no longer afford it, she said.

Portions of roofs also were blown off mobile homes in the Blue Gables park and at a new 7-Eleven store in Edgewater.

Officials with the Volusia County Property Appraisers office are expected to tour the county today to tally damage totals, county officials said, but the damages are not expected to meet the threshold for a disaster declaration.

No major damage was reported in Flagler County from the storms, other than Wednesday’s damage to a vacant home in Palm Coast from a downed tree and a roof blown off a manufactured home in Beverly Beach.

County spokesman Carl Laundrie said the county was lucky, considering the gusts of up to 62 mph Wednesday.

In Palm Coast, Fire Chief Mike Beadle said he remains concerned about wildfire danger and urged residents to be cautious.

He’s especially concerned about all the lightning strikes during the storms.

The strikes “will stay in the muck or the underbrush and once it warms up you can have a fire,” he said. “It has the potential to cause us fires here over the weekend.”

Sean Luchs, meteorologist for the Division for Forestry, said he remains concerned about drought.

The rain will help “in the short term,” Luchs said. “But if the rain doesn’t continue, we’ll go right back to drought conditions.”

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