PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – An effort to take cellphone video inside a powerful storm Thursday caused a woman in Florida to get the surprise of a lifetime – an unexpected lightning bolt that struck just feet away.
Brittany Labonte was in Madeira Beach, near St. Petersburg, when the storms rolled in off the Gulf of Mexico.
“So, I was just standing outside of my room just to get a look at the storm, and it really came out of nowhere,” Labonte said.
Labonte estimated she was only around 50 feet from the bolt when it came crashing down, but besides feeling the rumble of the building, she didn’t experience any effects from her close call with Mother Nature.
“We got lucky, very lucky,” stated Labonte.
The line of storms that produced the lightning also spawned a tornado a few miles away.
The National Weather Service confirmed damage to roofs and trees in nearby St. Petersburg was caused by an EF-1 tornado with winds of around 100 mph.
The twister was only on the ground for around a quarter of a mile but caused thousands to lose power and resulted in at least two injuries.
“There’s been scattered reports of damage, but fortunately nothing as widespread as what was reported over other portions of the Southeast,” a meteorologist at the NWS office in the Tampa region said.
The tornado was one of more than four dozen confirmed across the Southeast responsible for killing three and injuring dozens across six states.
Experiencing severe thunderstorms during December is not a rare event in Central Florida. Cold fronts are known to trigger storms as cold air clashes with the state’s warm airmass during winter months.
The time period from late spring to early summer is when storms are considered the most likely in the Sunshine State.