Trees up to 80 feet tall ripped out by tornado in Gardens communities

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Sarah Peters and Bill DiPaolo

Published January 26, 2017


PALM BEACH GARDENS -- A trail of enormous, upturned trees with fully exposed roots made Hood Road look like a scene from the movie “Twister” Tuesday, one day after a tornado swept through northern Palm Beach County.

“Ouch, ouch. It just hurts,” one woman said as she drove into the Eastpointe community in Palm Beach Gardens, getting a good look at downed ficus and black olive trees that blocked the guest entrance a day earlier.


Residents of Eastpointe and the Isle Verde neighborhood of Mirabella at Mirasol bore the brunt of a tornado that swept through a six-mile long stretch of Gardens and Juno Beach early Monday morning with peak winds of 90 mph.

No one was killed or seriously injured by the storm.

The trees outside Eastpointe didn’t fare as well. Six or eight ficus trees that are about 50 years old and stand between 65 and 80 feet tall were heavily damaged, landscaper Eric Nelson said. Three of them might be able to be saved, he said.

“It’s sad when you see big trees like that destroyed. It took them a while to grow,” Nelson said. “They were gorgeous.”

About a dozen oak trees were severely damaged, and 16 mature black olive trees were destroyed, he said. Numerous palm trees lost fronds, including some that snapped at a 90-degree angle.

A tree in the Celadon Circle neighborhood of Eastpointe fell on a couple’s new car.

One uprooted ficus tree between the guest entrance and resident entrance likely weighs 10 or 11 tons, Nelson, owner of Nelson Landscape Management, said. It got “wet feet,” and the wind caught it just right, he said. It took out a pipe along the way.

The trees that can be saved will take about five years to look normal again, Nelson said. The trees that can’t be spared should be cut up and removed by the end of the week, he said.

Nelson said he saw similar, but more widespread, damage after the 2005 hurricane, which brought 130-mph winds.

Meanwhile, down the street, William T. Dwyer High School and The Benjamin School’s Upper School resumed classes Tuesday after being closed Monday for storm cleanup. Officials from both schools estimate $500,000 to $1 million or more in damage, mostly to athletic facilities.

A glass window above Dwyer’s stairwell cracked and four classrooms were rendered unusable. School officials surmised the 1,500-pound roof from one of the baseball dugouts blew off and ricocheted off a classroom roof before landing elsewhere.

Bleachers at The Benjamin School’s main athletic field were decimated, the turf field was damaged and the track gouged by debris, Upper School Athletic Director Ryan Smith said. The school has found off-campus sites for the boys and girls lacrosse teams to practice, he said.

The baseball and softball field was mostly spared, although the start of softball practice was delayed until Thursday. There was no damage to classroom buildings or the new roof on the gym, Smith said.

In Juno Beach, the electricity returned, but blue tarps are on a few roofs at the 73-unit Juno Beach Condo mobile home park, eerily reminiscent of previous hurricane recoveries.

“Everyone helped each other. I’m so glad it’s over,” said Marthe Savard-Stranix, who was assisted by the Red Cross and spent the night in a nearby hotel. The former Quebec school teacher returned to her mobile home of 20 years Monday afternoon after neighbors took her to the grocery store.

One of the most severely damaged mobile homes is Savard-Stranix’s. Water ruined the floor, walls and ceiling. Her carport is smashed and awnings twisted. A blue tarp is on her roof.

Meanwhile, residents said they were surprised how quickly the broken glass, aluminum skirting and other debris was removed from the park on the west side of U.S. 1 south of Marcinski Road. Residents said the power came back about 4:30 p.m. on Monday.