Last Updated: 3:58 p.m.
The National Weather Service this afternoon confirmed that an EF1 tornado touched down in West Flagler early this morning (Dec. 14) and cut a 20-mile path northeast to Flagler Beach then offshore.
After weather service officials visited the county, the weather service, in consultation with local officials and observations on the ground, determined that the tornado, dubbed the Korona tornado, touched down near Haw Creek Preserve around 5:15 a.m., two minutes before the service issued a tornado warning. The tornado then followed a “steady east-northeast track” across Korona, south of Bunnell, skirting the south end of Seminole Woods in Palm Coast, then crossing I-95 and Old Kings Road, John Anderson Highway and the Intracoastal Waterway, before causing more damage in the area of Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, at the south end of Flagler Beach. By then it was 5:40 a.m.
The tornado peaked at 110 mph, and had a maximum width of half a mile, or 880 yards, according to the National Weather Service. See the path on a map below the video.
Flagler County this afternoon issued a 5-minute drone video showing some of the damage in Korona. The video shows structures that lost their roof, twisted metal, twisted and and fallen trees and debris. trees. Still, the damage, while striking, was limited.
The day’s earlier accounts are below.
Possible Tornado Appears to Have Touched Down in Line From Korona to South Flagler Beach, But Damage Is Limited
Storm-damage reports from a burst of severe thunderstorms before dawn at the south end of Flagler County were dotted along a relatively straight line from Korona through the south end of Seminole Woods, to South Old Kings Road and the south end of Flagler Beach this morning. Authorities were not ready to confirm a tornado touchdown, but were seeing strong signs of one. Damage is isolated, and with a minor exception, there’s been no reported injuries.
“There’s some damage reported in Flagler Beach at the south end, strong wind gusts or a tornado,” Flagler Beach City Manager Larry Newsom said before 7 a.m. “There’s another area on the west side too but that’s not our jurisdiction.” The city’s firefighters and police officers were conducting assessments, with Lt. Morgan Walden of the fire department leading the department’s efforts for now. “I don’t think it’s massive so I’m not going to call in staff until I have to. I’m going to use public safety.”
Newsom said the sign at High Tides At Snack Jack, the beachside restaurant, had been damaged. “I don’t think it’s too severe and but I don’t want to be too hasty,” he said. A little after 8 a.m., with more light on the damage, Newsom said there was some aditional damage to the front of the restaurant and some limited damage in the Pebble Beach subdivision. “One lady lost her whole Florida room,” and there were trees down, Newsom said. “Outside of that one house I have to say this has been a very minor impact from the storm.” He expects any storm debris to be picked up by Monday.
Emergency Management’s Jonathan Lord was started an on-the-ground assessment shortly after dawn, starting in Korona and making his way east. Flagler County Fire Flight, the emergency helicopter, is out of service, however, making an airborne assessment impossible.
By 8:30 a.m., Lord was concluding that the possible tornado “came down near the new traffic circle” at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway (the roundabout under construction there) and headed north-northeast. “It looks like it came up and down a few different times,” Lord said. “We definitely have one house that’s lost its roof near the traffic circle.” Otherwise, there’s minor property damage and “quite a few trees down.” Lord had surveyed the area up to I-95 by the time he spoke with FlaglerLive at 8:30. got up from US 1 to I95, a lot of roads are dirt roads, checked on properties back there, “there’ is some other minor damage,” quite a few trees down.
Lord said he would not be the one to determine whether it was a tornado. That’s up to the National Weather Service, whose officials were expected in Flagler later this morning. Lord was to meet with them. But “definitely what I saw near the traffic circle, there are trees in multiple directions which is definitely the sign of a tornado,” Lord said. But he would not venture a number, as to the tornado’s rating.
Residents of Seminole Woods and authorities in Flagler Beach were reporting isolated damage from a storm and a fire that coincided with the tornado warning early Saturday morning. There were early reports of a possible tornado touch-down at South 28th Street in Flagler Beach, where the fire police was summoned.
Isolated brush fires were also reported in the south end of the county.
“We’ve got very minimal challenges, Sexton Place I think there’s a house with damaged windows,” Palm Coast Fire Chief Jerry Forte said just after 7 a.m. “Predominantly we are answering calls for fire alarms and lightning strikes.” Forte said there was not much of an impact in the city, with issues concentrated at the south end of the county. He’d just spoken with a battalion chief who was reporting crews answering normal operation calls, with the exception of one crew helping Flagler Beach firefighters on John Anderson Highway.
Authorities were reporting damage at Creek Bluff Run, a small residential street off of John Anderson Highway, east of Bulow Plantation, where Florida Power and Light was summoned. A power line was arcing in that zone.
“We do have two witnesses who confirmed a tornado touchdown in this area,” a Flagler Beach firefighter was reporting at 6:25 a.m., in reference to the area of Creek Bluff Run.
Late this morning county government announced that tarps would be available to residents who sustained home damages, and could be picked up at the county’s Emergency Operations Center, 1769 E. Moody Boulevard, building 3, which is directly behind the domed Government Services Building. Tarps would be available until 3 p.m., or until they runout, whichever happens first.
“We only have a limited number of tarps, so we are asking residents to call before they make a trip to the Emergency Operations Center,” Lord said. The phone number to call is 386-313-4200.
There were also reports of a tree across the road at U.S. 1 and Old Dixie Highway, and power lines down at 4805 Old Haw Creek Road and a call for responders at Fairchild Oaks Boulevard Old Kings Road South.
As reports streamed in, the area of storm damage was drawing consistent line across the south end of the county, strongly suggesting the storm’s or possible tornado’s path.
“We can’t confirm it as a tornado just yet until we get daylight and physically look at what happened,” Bob Pickering, Flagler County Emergency Management’s weather specialist, said, “but it kind of feels like one based on the reports we’re getting. Right now the weather service is terming it severe storm damage, possible tornado damage. So no injuries reported as yet. Ironically the first report I had was by one of my React volunteers, he was in South Flagler Beach, he reported a loud roar and very squally wind and winds from multiple directions. That came in at zero five 45 a.m., that was just north of Gamble Rogers. The thing is that was the first damage report because he was actually up and around, spotting the storm.”
Some damage was being reported by residents in Seminole Woods through their Facebook neighborhood group. “We woke up to the glass on our patio doors busted. We currently have glass everywhere. No power,” one Secretary Trail resident reported, noting a fire across the street. “We are OK. Just a little shocked. We think it may have been a tornado. There is stuff everywhere in the yard.”
“We heard a faint whistling noise and knew the tornado was close,” another Seminole Woods resident wrote, and another described it as “a horrible and scary sound.”
A building behind the old White Eagle Lounge at Old Dixie Highway and U.S. 1 took some damage, but no injuries. There were multiple wires down on County Road 335, behind the White Eagle Lounge.
In Palm Coast proper, “We don’t really have anything significant,” City Manager Matt Morton was reporting by 8 a.m. “Tree debris, branches down. Canals are fine. Fortunately there’s nothing going on here, it sounds like Flagler Beach got most of it.”
Flagler Beach Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Cox had assessed the south end of town on the beach side. “We have some damage down here on the south end of Flagler Beach where it came across,” he said, with an overturned camper, some porches blown away, and the report of one minor injury: a cut to a woman’s leg, but the woman was not transported to a hospital.
“All of this started at 4:43 in the morning,” Pickering said. “We had a significant weather advisory posted and a severe thunderstorm watch posted at that point,” followed by the tornado warning from 5:17 to 5:45 a.m. “At this point I have confirmed damage reports from Korona, and you kind of draw a line from east south east from that point to South Flagler Beach,” with trees down, power lines down, and other similar type of damage.
“I would say anywhere from that line from Korona to south Flagler Beach,” Pickering said, “there’s potential to be storm damage, and there’s stuff we don’t know about yet as well. Key point is this is an evolving situation, things are evolving, and there’s stuff we don’t know. Fire rescue has been responding, Sheriff’s Office has been responding.”
If a tornado did touchdown this morning, it would have happened on the exact sixth-year anniversary of the last tornado to cause severe damage in Palm Coast, in 2013, a tornado later dubbed the Starlight Tornado, as it began to strike just as the city’s Starlight Parade was getting under way. The parade is scheduled for tonight.
The earlier story is below.
Tornado Warning for Southern Flagler County Until 5:45 AM
At 5:17 a.m. the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for southern Flagler County. A tornado warning means conditions are present for a tornado: you should seek shelter if you are in the affected area.
A severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located 8 miles southeast of Crescent City, moving east at 40 mph.
This dangerous storm will be near Palm Coast and Bunnell around 535 AM EST. Flagler Beach around 540 AM EST. Other locations impacted by this tornadic thunderstorm include Beverly Beach.
TAKE COVER NOW! Move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a sturdy building. Avoid windows. If you are outdoors, in a mobile home, or in a vehicle, move to the closest substantial shelter and protect yourself from flying debris. Heavy rainfall may hide this tornado. Do not wait to see or hear the tornado. TAKE COVER NOW!
Tornadoes are extremely difficult to see and confirm at night. Do not wait to see or hear the tornado. TAKE COVER NOW!