POLK COUNTY, Fla. — People in Polk County are cleaning up after a powerful EF-2 tornado ravaged a 9-mile stretch, damaging many houses and buildings after Tropical Storm Nestor blew in on Saturday.
- Extensive damage has been done to schools and homes
- Polk County sheriff says it's a 'miracle' no one was killed
- RELATED: PHOTOS: Officials: EF-2 Tornado Touched Down in Polk County
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Extensive damage can be seen in and around the Ashley Pointe neighborhood just north of Kathleen. All three floors and multiple computer labs in Kathleen Middle School were damaged as well.
The school will be closed Monday and Tuesday as crews make repairs and bring in portable classrooms.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd applauded the community for their response to Nestor, as residents jumped in to support the victims.
The Sheriff said it was a "miracle" residents were spared.
"Total destruction, you know. There was a man and woman in their home in bed when their house vaporized around them and they weren't even injured other than bumps and bruises," he said. "That's a miracle. We at the Sheriff's Office are here supporting emergency operations as well as state and federal partners we are going to ensure safety and security our heart goes out to those traumatized by this horrible devastation."
Judd went on to warn that the Sheriff's Office will be beefing up patrols in heavily hit areas to deter anyone from trying to take advantage of the situation.
Meanwhile, there was much damage at the Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, with storm debris from Nestor littered the church's yard on Saturday.
However, nearly 100 people came out to help clear the debris away after the main building saw minor damage, but the second church building was badly damaged.
A home behind the church also had its roof torn off while the owners were asleep in bed.
"We were in that bed and we heard the noise and we got up. And we had this big window right there so she was looking out and I started around the bed and then it came through the house and it crushed that wall right there over on me and then she had done made it around the corner and that's as far as we got," described Bill Wright.
Wright says he and his wife Linda Wright are thankful to the dozens of strangers who showed up on Saturday to help recover belongings and clean up debris.
"We'll survive," Wright said. "We got a lot of help. This is gonna be hard to rebuild or whatever we're gonna do, but it is what it is. You just gotta do the best you can."
Wright, his wife and their dogs are staying with loved ones as they figure out their next steps.
On Sunday, the efforts continue as inmate-work crews will be out to clean up the destruction at the church and Kathleen Middle School.
The Mt. Tabor Baptist Church saw significant damage to their second building. The home directly behind the church had its roof blown off. We are told this all happened in a matter of seconds. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/uNBBiiu7bQ— Ashley Paul (@AshleyPaulTV) October 19, 2019