Tornado touches down in Florida near Tallahassee airport; thousands without power

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The National Weather Service in Tallahassee confirmed a tornado touched ground near the Tallahassee International Airport late Wednesday morning.

The storm caused power outages and road closures. The city of Tallahassee was reporting Wednesday afternoon as many as 4,800 utility customers without power across the city.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey announced just after 2 p.m. local time that the airport had reopened after closing down briefly and delivered somber news of two fatalities in a traffic crash on Interstate 10.

“Sadly, we can confirm two fatalities from a vehicle crash on I-10 and one individual who was transported to the hospital with injuries,” Dailey wrote. “This accident appears to be weather related but it is not clear that it was caused by the potential tornado.”

The Florida Highway Patrol reported the fatalities at about 11:45 a.m., just as severe weather was sweeping through the area.

Damage from a tornado that touched down by the Tallahassee airport in Florida, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.
Damage from a tornado that touched down by the Tallahassee airport in Florida, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.

At 11:50 a.m. local time, the confirmed tornado was located near Florida A&M University and moving east at 55 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Tallahassee:

"A tornado is on the ground," the Weather Service tweeted. "TAKE COVER NOW! Move to a basement or 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."

Leon County’s Emergency Management director said the city may have “dodged a bullet” despite the tornado and caused minimal damage at the airport.

Kevin Peters said there were no emergency calls reporting damage at homes in the county and the only serious damage reports were of a private, twin engine aircraft that flipped at the Tallahassee International Airport and reported damage to private hangars there.

A history of twisters: Tornadoes in Florida since 1950

Airport temporarily closed

The Tallahassee International Airport was temporarily closed for damage assessment.

The tornado left a path of downed trees, a flipped over plane and debris at the airport.

Passengers and staff were evacuated to stairwells inside the airport when severe weather swept in from the west just before noon.

Pollard said a twin engine, privately owned aircraft was flipped over, several other planes were repositioned by winds and there was damage to hanger doors and roofs. He described the damage overall as minimal and said no injuries had been reported.

“We immediately focused on doing a damage assessment and the safety of our airfield environment,” he said. “Our airfield looks like it’s in pretty good shape here.”

He noted how quick action inside the airport ensured people were out of harm’s way once tornado warning started to roll in just before noon.

“It’s important that we acted swiftly and immediately when we got the warning,” he said. “It’s an example of how our focus is always on safety.”

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Tallahassee tornado: Touchdown near airport, power outages reported