Tree down in Floral City

Two large branches from this oak tree fell overnight. This home is located on East Hooker Place in Floral City.

Strong winds took down several trees and power lines in Citrus County Thursday and early Friday, causing a few thousand outages ahead of a chilly cold front.

Wind speeds increased through Thursday, before a fast-moving line of thunderstorms moved east across Florida later in the night and into the morning, prompting storm warnings and tornado watches.

Citrus County Fire Rescue crews from Thursday to Friday responded to a dozen calls involving downed power lines, a lightning strike and a pair of damaged structures — a home in Inverness and one in Floral City, according to CCFR spokeswoman Cortney Marsh.

Bonnie Conti is the Inverness property owner whose home was damaged when a large oak tree fell on the screened in lanai. She wasn’t home at the time the incident occurred, but was alerted to the potential problem by a neighbor who lives directly behind her house.

“I walked around the house, and I got to this the corner, my entire patio was damaged,” Conti said. “I was really freaking out, I was kind of blubbering at the time (I made the call to fire rescue).”

Conti, who has lived in the home since 1993, said this is a first for her.

“I’ve never had to deal with this before,” she said, noting no one got hurt in the ordeal. “But you’ve got a very tired postal worker who’s freaking out, and a scared cat, Stripes. He pulled up the outdoor carpeting and curled up in there like a ball.”

Similar emergency calls continued through Friday. 

Citrus County had sustained winds of between 25 and 30 mph, with wind gusts before the storm of up to 48 mph reported west of Crystal River, according to Austen Flannery, meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s (NWS’s) Tampa Bay office.

As the storm passed through the county, a NWS monitoring station recorded wind gusts as high as 46 mph near the Marine Science Station outside of Crystal River.

Marsh and Flannery said no tornadoes or microbursts (straight-line winds) were reported to CCFR or the NWS.

“It’s certainly possible that something happened that we weren’t able to record with our limited sensors,” Flannery noted.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Peveeta Persaud said Duke did not record peak outages in Citrus County during the storm, but reported up to 25,000 outages statewide.

Duke’s outage map showed around 860 of its customers in Citrus County were still without power later Friday morning.

David Lambert, spokesman for the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, said the electric provider had roughly 3,500 Citrus County customers with outages and most were restored.

Sumter Electric Cooperative’s, or SECO’s, Facebook page showed 1,643 members served by its Inverness substation had an outage at 11:13 p.m., which was resolved later Friday morning.  

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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