On Christmas day, 2006, holiday festivities were ruined for hundreds of Floridians as five tornadoes descended from the sky, reducing homes, and the collected memories many years, to rubble in a matter of minutes.
The trouble started on Christmas Eve, when a low pressure system formed over the Gulf of Mexico, inter-tangling with the jet stream and creating a squall line. By the following afternoon, this rapidly-moving storm front forced its way eastward into Florida, spawning five tornadoes.
Just before noon, authorities issued a tornado warning the Leesburg area of Lake County. An F0 funnel cloud touched down shortly after that, doing only moderate damage to a mobile home park. No one was injured.
Not long after, a second tornado, this time an F2, developed to the south, severely damaging two mobile home parks and injuring 10 people. Right around that same time, another F2 tornado tor through Daytona Beach, damaging the city’s international airport and tearing the roofs from three nearby apartment buildings.
This same system, with winds up to 120 mph, hit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, picking up several small Cessna planes and tossing them into a nearby building. More than 50 of the school’s 75 planes were damaged beyond repair. The college also suffered a fire and a collapsed a hanger as a result of the storm.
On the opposite side of the state, another 80 homes were destroyed by another F-2 tornado that touched down north of Tampa. Farther north, near Lake City, another 10 homes were destroyed.
The entire storm lasted only a couple of hours, but managed to leave behind a path of devastation through much of the state of Florida. Even in areas that didn’t take a direct hit from tornadoes, property damage due to high winds and heavy rains was extensive. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration estimated that the damage added up to more than $30 million in Daytona Beach alone.
Fortunately, despite the extensive property damage and some injuries, no one was killed by the storms. Though no one would wish to experience such devastation at any time of year, let alone during the holidays, many would consider the absence of fatalities to be a Christmas miracle.