Tornado hits Florida

Riviera Beach residents were looking Friday morning at ripped-off roofs, shorn treetops and other damage in the wake of a tornado that tore a 3-mile path through north Palm Beach County.

BY SUSAN KIM | RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. | July 8, 2003



"There are low income, ethnically diverse populations in this area of Palm Beach County."

—Jody Hill


Riviera Beach residents were looking Friday morning at ripped-off roofs, shorn treetops and other damage in the wake of a tornado that tore a 3-mile path through north Palm Beach County.

The twister, which developed very rapidly, hit Thursday about 5:30 p.m.

The Rev. Cleveland English, pastor at the Simpson Memorial United Methodist Church, joined other local clergy in walking the neighborhoods to minister to whoever he could.

But Friday morning much of the area was still roped off by police and other emergency responders. "You can't really maneuver in there," said English.

Only minor injuries were reported. "The good news is there was no loss of life," he said. "It's serious damage but it's all material damage."

Preliminary assessments indicate some 500 homes were damaged or destroyed, with most of the damage in Riviera Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.

At the Garden Walk mobile home park, the twister ripped off roofs, tore away walls, and shifted homes off their foundations. At least 100 mobile homes were impacted, according to Jody Hill of Florida Interfaiths Networking in Disasters. "There are low income, ethnically diverse populations in this area of Palm Beach County," she said.

Hill and other response leaders encouraged people who want to help to wait for specific instructions from a responding organization before going to the site to volunteer. Response leaders also urged people to make a cash donation to a responding group rather than bring donations such as clothing to the disaster site.

English and other pastors said they planned to walk door-to-door later Friday to help assess people's needs.

Salvation Army mobile canteens were on the scene through Thursday night and Friday. The Salvation Army was also shipping cleanup kits for tornado survivors.

Riviera Beach has declared a state of emergency. More than 20,000 people were without power Thursday night.


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