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32 injured as tornado skips across New Smyrna Beach

November 3, 1997

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A tornado blew through this beachside community, knocking out power to thousands of residents, damaging hundreds of homes and injuring 32.

``It woke me up and almost sucked my wife out the window,″ said Roger Vayles, a resident of a condominium complex. ``I could see the barbecue grill on the porch take off like a bullet.″

Vayles’ wife, Sal, was treated for minor injuries.

The twister began early Sunday as a strong thunderstorm that intensified just before it reached New Smyrna Beach.

Total damage was estimated between $10 million to $14 million. Authorities said about 300 homes and two schools were damaged. New Smyrna Beach High School remained closed today while officials assessed the damage.

Six of the injured remained hospitalized late Sunday, one with a broken back and another with a broken pelvis.

Residents at the Diamond Head Point condominium complex, many of them retirees, were evacuated after the tornado devastated their homes. Officials allowed them to enter Sunday evening to claim some of their possessions.

Pearlie and Robert Thompson were sleeping in their bedroom when the storm hit.

``I heard a sound like an explosion, and then the roof was just lifted off the house and we were staring up at the sky,″ Mrs. Thompson said.

The tornado was part of a weather front that caused problems across the peninsula Sunday. Another tornado touched down in Cape Coral in southwest Florida, causing minor damage but no injuries.

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