Tornadoes Hit Lakeland, Damage Kathleen Middle School

UPDATED 5:43 p.m. Severe weather spawned tornadoes in greater Lakeland, lifted large portions of the roof off Kathleen Middle School, caused power outages, overturned a semi-trailer on Interstate 4 and pushed a major car show indoors.

Tornadoes touched down in a line between Lakeland Linder Airport and Kathleen as severe weather knocked out power to nearly 10,000 homes and businesses; that number was down to 8,388 by by 4 p.m., according to Lakeland Electric’s outage map. No serious injuries have been reported, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Much of the roof of Kathleen Middle School was missing, a tractor-trailer overturned on an SUV on westbound I-4 , and a recreational vehicle was flipped onto the roof of a home across from Kathleen Middle.

The damaged roof led to flooding at Kathleen Middle School and water lines inside the school reportedly burst, according to ABC Action News. Classes have been cancelled at the school for Monday and Tuesday, though all other Polk schools will be open, the school district said on Twitter.

A tornado watch issued for Polk County was lifted at noon, and rains subsided by early afternoon.

The weather conditions are a byproduct of Post Tropical Cyclone Nestor, which moved from west to northeast across the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall this afternoon at St. Vincent Island in the Panhandle.

Lakeland Electric says most customers whose power is out will be restored today, but a few will have to wait until tomorrow. “Line crews are facing multiple broken poles, tree debris, and many wires down,” the utility reported. The utility’s workers are being assisted by crews from municipal power agencies in Orlando, Kissimmee and Ocala.

In downtown Lakeland, today’s large annual MidFlorida Auto Show was moved from the shores of Lake Mirror and the Munn Park area into the city of Lakeland’s Iowa Avenue Garage (Iowa Avenue and Orange Street), the Orange Street Garage (309 E Orange Street) and on a portion of Iowa Avenue between Orange Street and Lemon Street, according to a city news release.

Today’s Downtown Farmers Market Curb was cancelled. Also cancelled: tonight’s Haunted Halloween Hayride & Happenings, hosted by Polk County’s Parks and Natural Resources at Loyce Harpe Park.

The Sheriff’s Office reported at 9:35 a.m. that the following roads in northwest Polk are closed or experiencing restricted traffic:

  • New Tampa Hwy/Hibiscus Pkwy E.
  • Clark Rd/New Tampa Hwy
  • Walker Rd/Swindell Rd
  • Bella Vista St W/Galloway Rd N
  • Bella Vista St W/Sutton Rd
  • Swindell Rd east of Kirkland
  • Publix Rd/Mt. Tabor Rd

On Interstate 4, a tornado toppled a semi-trailer onto an SUV near County Line Road, but injuries were minimal, 10 News said in a report that included dramatic video:

Westbound lanes on the interstate was closed for two and a half hours following the 11 p.m. accident.

The tornadoes that touched down in Lakeland were classified by Polk Emergency Management and the National Weather Service as EF1 (86 to 110 mph) and EF2 (111 to 135 mph)

Here are excerpts from an 8:35 a.m. news release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office:

The tornado initially touched down in the area of Lakeland Linder Airport. The storm continued in a north, northeast direction stretching from the airport as far north as Tom Bryant Lane. Several areas sustained damage to include the New and Old Tampa Highway corridors and Timber Ridge N, S, E, and W areas. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center received dozens of reports of damage.

Mt. Tabor and the surrounding streets sustained damage to structures, power lines and numerous trees were reported being down or damaged.  The apparent path of the tornado, according to reports of damage received by the PCSO, continued up the Kathleen Rd. corridor causing damage to Kathleen Middle School and numerous residential structures.

The following is a partial list of some of the calls we worked last night/early this morning. These are only examples of people who calledthere are many examples of damaged property where we did not receive a call:

Vehicle Crash; 11:10 p.m.; I-4 between Polk Parkway and Memorial Blvd.; Semi-tractor Trailer was pushed over by the wind, collided with a vehicle, no serious injuries.

Highway obstruction; Old Tampa Highway and Clark Road; 11:19 pm; Electric lines down; Lakeland Electric responding

Tornado damage; 11:21; 38** Timberlake Road E, Kathleen; Damage to house, barn, and garage; windows blown out in home

Tornado damage; 11:25 pm; Bella Vista Street W and Walker Road, Kathleen; Advises tornado hit houses in the area; trees are damaged and in the roadway

Roadway obstruction; 11:26 p.m.; Polston Road and Mt. Tabor Road; Trees down in the roadway, complete blockage on Polston, also stated trees dwon on Sleepy Hill Road near the area

Roadway obstruction; 11:27 pm; Knights Station Road & Galloway Road; Kathleen; electric lines down, power pole snapped; Lakeland Electric already has crews out

Tornado damage; 11:28 pm; 35** Manor Loop; damage to homewindow is broken
Roadway obstruction; 11:32 pm; Clark Road & New Tampa Highway; Power lines down

Tornado damage; 11:31 pm; 35** Manor Loop; Tree on & through the roofno injuries

Roadway obstruction; 11:34 pm; Kathleen Road & Tom Bryan Lane; road is completely blocked by trees”probably a  mile” of blockage

Tornado damage; 11:34 pm; 79** Ashley Pointe Drive; damage to fence and carno injuries

Tornado damage; 11:23 pm; 33** Youngs Ridge Road; tree damage; damage to mobile home park; roof damage

Roadway obstruction; 11:34 pm; Highland Grove Drive and Willow Wisp Drive; power lines down; power out in the area; tree and fence knocked down

Tornado damage; 11:35 pm; 34** Publix Road, between Mt. Tabor and Sunnyside Drive, Kathleen; power lines down; roof damage; trees down; damaged homes

Tornado damage; 35** Campbell Rd., West, between Manor Dr. and Ashley Pointed Drive; 11:35 pm; tree in the road, vehicle damagedno one in the vehicleno injuries

Tornado damage; 38** Timberlake Rd., W.; 11:37 pm; neighbor’s home received significant damage; he is out of the home, trees are down; no power in the area; tree blocking the road; no injuries reported

Tornado damage; 11:39 pm; 79** Ashley Pointe Dr.; tornado damage windows damaged on car; minor injury from glass breakage

Tornado damage; 74** Highland Grove Dr.; 11:43 p.m.; damage to windows on vehicle; glass breakage in home; power out; no injuries

Tornado damage; 35** Valley Farm Rd; 11:44 pm; power lines are down; power pole is down; no injuries

Roadway obstruction; 12:03 am; Ariana Street and Southern Avenue; tree down in roadway

Tornado damage; 12:04 am; 35** Chart Prine Road; Trees are down in the area; damage to vehicle; damage to pool screen, carport, and shed; power lines hanging low

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

We’ll continue updating this breaking news story.

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