Residents of Fort Walton Beach witnessed a terrifying tornado tear apart the beachfront right before their eyes Sunday. The storm funnel caused damage to businesses and homes from Mary Esther to Okaloosa Island as it moved along the waterfront. Okaloosa County issued a tornado watch around 3 p.m. Sunday and sure enough, a tornado touched down.
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Meteorologist De’vel Johnson warned residents there was a rotation spotted prompting the National Weather Service to issue a tornado warning of their own at 4:39 p.m. Johnson reported Sunday evening, "We cannot confirm that it was a tornado at this time. We have gotten several videos of funnel clouds and reports of damage around Fort Walton Beach area. We will be doing surveys (Monday)."
The tornado came at a high cost to residents as it damaged homes, businesses, and churches along its chaotic path. The violent storm dealt the brunt of the damage to Okaloosa Island as it tore through southern Okaloosa County. One witness named Alan Parker said he and his wife were watching TV at their home on Sailfish Drive when they heard an unfamiliar noise. The Okaloosa resident told his wife, "No, it’s a tornado."
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"We ran and got in the bathroom," Parker said. "We hit the bathroom and everything started falling apart." He and his wife helplessly watched as the tornado his the Original Waterfront Crab Shack across the Santa Rosa Sound. The tornado's route was clearly visible as it left a wake of destruction in its path with large branches and garbage scattered everywhere.
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City manager Michael Beedie said, "We're out here assessing the damage of the tornado. It came from Okaloosa Island and we do have video of the tornado on land. There is some damage of City Hall and the Charlie Hill Terrace on Robinwood Drive, that complex seems to be the one that has sustained the most damage."
Local business owner Malcolm Hawkins said, "I don’t even know where the roof went, or the trees." Hawkins was inside his business called Simple Truth and described hearing sounds like a "train and bombs going off on the roof." He added that he is thankful no one was injured and the damage wasn't worse, "God is good."
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Just caught a tornado here in Florida <a href="https://t.co/PBKBhRpwdW">pic.twitter.com/PBKBhRpwdW</a></p>— D (@fwbabcom) <a href="https://twitter.com/fwbabcom/status/988168659091775488?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">April 22, 2018</a></blockquote>
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