By Eric Glasser
CHANNELSIDE, Florida (WTSP) - A waterspout moved ashore in downtown Tampa and took a right turn plowing a path through Channelside just before lunchtime on Tuesday.
Incredibly, no one was hurt, but it did some serious damage.
"I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz for a second," said Harbour Island visitor Adam Page.
Page is staying at the Westin Harbour Island, where part of the roof was shredded into metal strips as the storm came ashore.
"Well, there's no warning, all of a sudden it just hit," said Robert Hagemann, a charter bus driver who kept more than 50 people aboard until the wind stopped shaking the tour bus.
"I've lived here 10 years and this is by far the most wind I've ever seen," said Harbour Island resident Christian Deater.
Witnesses from Harbour Island to Channelside reported downed signs, tree limbs and power poles. The whole thing lasted about four to five minutes.
Any doubts about it being a tornado seemed to be erased by Greek Taverna Manager Rachel Prophet, who used those familiar words when describing what she'd seen and heard: "You know how when a train's coming in? That's what it sounded like. A train coming in."
Boats were damaged. Cars were crushed by toppling fences, among them a rental being used by the Steinhausen family visiting from Germany.
Burkhard Steinhausen said he was glad his wife and child were unharmed, but said, "Now I have a problem because it's a rental car, and I don't know what to do!"
Perhaps most dangerous in all of this is that the winds were strong enough to lift patio furniture from the nearby Channelside Towers. They became flying missiles that landed several blocks away, near the Tampa Aquarium.
"It was frightening," said Sharon Armstrong, who owns a couch the city work crews recovered. She watched in horror and disbelief as the winds lifted it off her 26th floor balcony.
"It just lifted up and spun in a circle and went over," she said.
Weather officials say the waterspout will be classified as an F-0 tornado, a weak one by storm standards. But it was more than strong enough to do some damage and leave a lasting impression.
"It was nuts. I've never seen anything so powerful," said Page.
Elsewhere, there were reports of widespread wind damage with numerous trees and power lines down, as well as damage to docks and boats in several locations around Cedar Key. Cedar Key also posted a wind gust of around 79 knots (90 mph).