No tornado detected in severe Collier storm

Posted at 9:38 AM, Jan 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-18 09:41:00-05

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- The National Weather Service was out in full force Sunday, touring some of the most damaged areas across Collier County.

Their survey of the storm found that winds were the equivalent to those found in an EF-1 tornado, but no evidence of a tornado was found.  Peak winds were estimated at 70-90 miles per hour. They say the storm carved out a 2-4 mile wide and 30-mile long path across the county.

Thankfully, there were no deaths or injuries reported.

The storm came ashore at 5:21am at 10th Avenue South, near the Naples Pier, and concluded at 5:51am near the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee.

Some of the most extensive damage was found along the south side: Port Royal, Royal Harbour neighborhood, Old Naples, Naples Zoo, the Naples Airport and Golden Gate.

The team assessing the damage found mostly tree debris but say it's alarming for this much severe weather activity this early in the year. "It's fairly rare for Florida, South Florida, Southwest Florida to have severe weather during this time of year.  However this is a year where there is a strong El Nino in existence, and that tends to produce days where there are severe thunderstorms over Southwest Florida," said forecaster Stephen Konarik.

Here are the findings of the report:

Several beached catamarans were observed in the vicinity of Naples Pier. Within Naples...areas of mainly tree damage were observed in the Port Royal...Aqualane Shores...Royal Harbor...and Olde Naples areas. Damage along the Naples coastline extended as far south as the southernmost part of Gordon Drive to as far north as Broad Avenue. This included some of the more significant tree damage that was observed on
Kings Town drive...which consisted of large uprooted hardwood trees...trees snapped at the trunk...and pine trees snapped up to 50 feet above their base.

Damage spread northeastward...including damage to a boat and dock as well as a construction site near Lake Park and the Port of Naples marina. Further north...significant tree damage was observed at the Naples Zoo.

Next the severe thunderstorm crossed Naples Municipal Airport...where several planes were damaged and extensive tree damage was observed on the north side of the airport. The official NWS observation at Naples Airport measured an 82 mph wind gust at 525 AM EST...and a nearby mesonet observation reported an 84 mph wind gust at the same time. Additional structural damage to sheds and outbuildings were observed along Airport-Pulling road.

Intermittent damage continued as the storm crossed Interstate 75...between Golden Gate Parkway...Santa Barbara Blvd...and Radio Road. Again...uprooted and snapped trees were numerous...and partial roof damage was observed. Damage become more concentrated in Golden Gate city...primarily across northwest portions of the community...including along Coronado Parkway. In this addition to tree damage...numerous street signs were downed and fence damage was observed.

The most significant and concentrated damage occurred in Golden Gate Estates. Here...dozens of very large trees were downed within a two block area in the vicinity of Collier Blvd and 5th Avenue NW. Power lines...fences...and outbuildings were heavily damaged.

Further northeast...the magnitude of damage diminished and became more sporadic...with only isolated downed and snapped trees through Orange Tree and along Oil Well Road.

The final location of damage was the Immokalee Seminole Reservation...which corresponded to a nearby measured wind gust of 79 mph at 551 AM EST. Damage to fences...power lines...and trees were observed.

This severe thunderstorm was moving at 60 mph. Although no conclusive evidence of a tornado was found...these thunderstorm wind speeds were equivalent to those found in an EF-1 tornado.