These are grabs from video taken after an apparent microburst hit Whitney Mobile Home Park (where I live) in NW Gainesville on July 17th, 1997.

I left the park at about 3:35 in the afternoon to pick up my sister-in-law from work at the Oaks Mall. It was raining - but not too hard - as I left the park. However, as we got onto Highway 441 heading northwest towards NW 43rd St., the rain began to pick up to a very hard pace. The lightning started out of nowhere and quickly became a rather incessant and unnerving barrage of electric blue light permeating everywhere in the air around us and there were lots of very loud, very close thunder claps. Over the 2-meter radio, some hams were reporting hail, some others reported high winds, and the rest were reporting heavy rains in various parts of the city.

As we drove farther south, by the time we reached the intersection of NW 53rd and 43rd the rain had now lessened to a light drizzle as we had reached the edge of the storm and the heavier downpour area. But the lightning continued at a frequent rate behind us and to the east. The thunder could still be heard. As we continued down 43rd to NW 39th Street, and on past NW 23rd Ave., we could see that the storm was moving eastward. We could also see obvious, dark, thick rainshafts to the east emanating from numerous areas beneath the storm structure. The lightning was continuing now to the northeast and east.

Upon arriving at the Oaks, now completely out from underneath of the storm, it was easy to look back towards the north and around to the southeast and see all the dark mess of things that caused all the noise. Then there was a crash of thunder and all of a sudden a chorus of car alarms started going off all around the vast parking lot in front of the Mall where we were waiting. Provided for a quick laugh. When I looked to the east I noted a lowering in the cloud base. Was it a wall cloud of some kind? I doubt it; but it's in the first and second images. I think I'm just suffering from `wall cloud hysteria' at the moment, and seeing them everywhere I look now. (Florida clouds are so mushy that there are often many lowerings which look like wall clouds but which really aren't. These kinds of `false lowerings' make spotting difficult here, especially for the novice spotter trying to get a grasp on things.)

When we arrived back at Whitney Park a half hour later, it quickly became apparent that the Park had suffered from a high wind event of some kind ... and that we had obviously just barely escaped it's wrath when we left.

Some small tree branch and twig debris was strewn all about, as usual from gusty wind events, but there were also a few larger tree branches down here and there, one pine tree was knocked over onto the end of a mobile home, garbage cans had been blown around or knocked over, and there was a lot of noticeable ponding of water in many places. People were out driving about the park in their vehicles, riding their bicycles, or just walking around ... trying to get a better look at any damage there might be to see.

In my own excursions about the park, I found that many of the residents thought it had been a tornado which caused all of the mess. I asked a few residents why they thought that. Had they actually seen one? No. Incredibly though, noone knew why they thought that other than because things were blown down and about and a couple homes suffered some damage. I thought it not very likely to be a tornado however, since the damage was -- though it looked pretty impressive at first sight -- for the most part, relatively minor. It was also apparent to me that where there was something broken or damaged, it looked like it was simply blown straight DOWN, rather than thrown off someplace. Where a branch was down, it lay right below the place on the tree where it once hung, for example. I summized that it was all very probably and more likely the result of a microburst event. A wet one ... from all the visible residual saturation still ponded about. Still, when I suggested that it was more likely a microburst rather than a tornado, most residents actually balked in favor of the tornado theory. Guess they liked the more dramatic sound of it. (Sheesh.) I think I can see now how the incorrect rumors are spread so easily about.

Though the `wind event'/damage was reported by me directly to the NWS and a local news agency, the reports were totally ignored and so nothing was mentioned in any NWS reports, in any LSRs for the day, or in the news.

Notable: The top of one tree behind our next door neighbor's home was snapped off and fell about 30 feet to the ground. The diameter at the break was about 6 inches. The length of the broken treetop lying on the ground was about 10 feet. Another smaller branch had fallen between two mobile homes across the street from us to our north. On the west side of the Park, a tall pine tree had fallen across the bedroom of a mobile home (I never did get around to snagging a video of that). Yet another mobile home in the SE corner of the park had it's aluminum car port smashed by the winds. A van was parked beneath tha carport. All of this went ignored.

Interestingly enough, a horse located on a farm in the south edge of the county was reported by TV-20 to have been injured by hail, only to later be discovered (and corrected the next day) that it had apparently been itching a scratch upon a barbed wire fence surrounding the farm in order to relieve itself of the torturous agony -- and that was where its injuries were coming from. (Would you believe that this silly little charade was also actually reported on an official LSR [or Local Storm Report] for the day?)

Go figure!

Next time there's damage here, I'll think report that my cat suffered some form of mental anxiety from the event or something. Think that'll work? ...Maybe. ...Probably likely.

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Created: October 19, 1997.
Last updated: October 31, 1997.

Mail to: Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
All Photos Copyright © 1997-2010 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.