A Florida State Fair tent collapsed under severe weather Friday, injuring 13 people.
Two people received the most serious injuries and were taken to St. Joseph's and Brandon Regional hospitals, said Battalion Chief Ernie Wargo with Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. The other 11 patients had minor injuries and were taken to either of the two hospitals, he explained.
"Nothing was life-threatening," Wargo said. "There were no emergency transports or trauma alerts."
Katye Waddle, 15, was huddled under the 50-foot food tent with several people when what she described as a sudden huge gust blew over the structure. She was knocked in the head with a pole but said she was fine and was able to run away.
"There was a girl we passed and she was clutching her head and it was bleeding," said Waddle, a student at Blake High. "That wasn't the only tent that fell over. The same thing happened to a friend who was in a green tent that also fell over."
People were seen running throughout the fairgrounds and some screamed, "Tornado!" as they scrambled for cover. Along with the large tent, several smaller structures collapsed.
Fair officials said the large tent that collapsed, Cox's Food Corral, will re-open Saturday. Straps that anchored the square 50-foot-long tent were ripped away, exposing the food corral's entire cooking area to the elements. The damaged tent was removed and a smaller one was erected in its place about 5:30 p.m.
Aria Sitlin said she and her husband had taken their children to the Fair Friday because of the annual "Fair Day," where some area schools close to allow student to attend the Fair.
"It started to rain...then all of sudden there was a gust of rain that came through that tore the whole place apart," she said. People were "running for their lives...It was surreal, I'm a little bit in shock."
Student coupons for Fair Day that were set to expire at 5 p.m. were honored until the fair closed Friday night.
The storm hit the Tampa Bay area swiftly and powerfully.
At about 2:30 p.m. Friday, two homes on Michigan Avenue in St. Petersburg were pelted with rain and pushed by strong winds. A palm tree was uprooted, roof tiles were damaged and the screening behind one of the homes was torn. Winds were estimated at 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
A tornado watch was issued earlier in the afternoon for the entire area and most of the state. The watch lasted through about 9 p.m.
People at MacDill Air Force Base spotted a water spout at 2:56 p.m., about four miles into the Bay in the direction of Gibsonton.
And conditions at the Florida State Fair caused rides to shut down as people huddled underneath shelters, but almost all rides reopened by 5 p.m.
Nearby on Interstate 4, visibility dropped quickly at 3 p.m. and drivers pulled onto shoulders to let the gusting rains pass.
The showers and thunderstorms are the precursor to a cold front moving east, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Juli Marquez.
The National Weather Service also issued a coastal flood watch for Friday, warning that high tide could be 1 to 3 feet above normal. Marquez said the high tide for Tampa Bay is between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put Central and South Florida under slight risk for severe thunderstorms, she said. Severe thunderstorms could bring large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes, she said.
Still, Friday's rainy weather should give way to a dry weekend, though Marquez said it will be chillier than normal. Saturday's highs should be in the mid 60s.
In: Creative, LiveLeaks, Citizen Journalism, Other
Tags: USA, Florida, tampa, State fair, tornado aftermath
Location: Tampa, Florida, United States (load item map)
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