Local News

`It Was Like the Wizard of Oz' - Tornado Skips...

Posted May 13, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— From the roof of the downtown police station, Officer Leo Carilo watched the tornado lurch closer and closer.

``I saw palm trees and trees with root systems and everything a couple of hundred feet up,'' Carilo said. ``It was something like in the movie `Twister,' like in the Wizard of Oz, everything flying like that.''

The tornado swept past the station and Miami's high-rise condominiums Monday afternoon, smashing windows and damaging roofs and cars in a two-mile path as people scrambled for cover. No one was killed and only five injured, including a woman who suffered a heart attack.

Several television stations captured spectacular footage of the funnel cloud as it blew through downtown with 100 mph winds, then past condo towers and across causeways on Biscayne Bay.

In Little Havana, the roof of a three-story building collapsed. The tornado also touched down on the MacArthur Causeway, which leads to South Beach, and brought traffic to a halt.

``We thought it was going to hit us,'' said Joseph McCrea, a toll collector at the Venetian Causeway, which leads to Miami Beach.

McCrea watched the storm rip trees out of the ground and set off small explosions as it tore down power lines. An estimated 20,000 people lost power, but it was restored by evening. At least 35 had to seek overnight shelter.

``I've lived here 32 years and this is the first time I've ever seen anything like this,'' said police spokesman Delrish Moss, who watched the twister blow by the police station. ``I was fascinated. I found myself standing there in total awe of the magnificent power that this packs.''

An American Airlines jet flying into Miami International Airport hit severe turbulence because of the tornado, injuring two passengers and five flight attendants. The A300 from Boston had 156 passengers and nine crew members aboard. It landed safely.

``It bounced so hard I thought we hit another plane or something,'' said Claude Remy, whose wife, Noemie, injured her neck and shoulder.

Anna Varela, who lives on an island between Miami and Miami Beach, saw the twister on TV. Then she looked out a window and saw the tornado bearing down on her house, which escaped virtually unscathed.

``They showed it on TV and then it came through like a whirlpool,'' she said.

By TOM BAYLES,Associated Press Writer Copyright ©1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.