Jeff Burlew and Karl Etters – Tallahassee Democrat

TLH reopens, fatalities confirmed by mayor 

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey announced just after 2 p.m. that the Tallahassee International Airport had reopened but also delivered somber news of two fatalities in a traffic crash on Interstate 10.

“Sadly, we can confirm two fatalities from a vehicle crash on I-10 and one individual who was transported to the hospital with injuries,” Dailey wrote. “This accident appears to be weather related but it is not clear that it was caused by the potential tornado.”

The Florida Highway Patrol reported the fatalities near the Capital Circle Northwest exit ramp at about 11:45 a.m., just as severe weather was sweeping through the area.

The airport was cleared for air traffic at about 1:45 p.m.

“Happy to report that TLH is open for service! Thank you for your patience as damage assessment was conducted after the severe weather,” the airport tweeted. “One runway remains closed while final debris removal & safety checks are performed. The other runway is open for air traffic during this time.”

Tornado forces lawmakers to ‘TAKE COVER’

The severe weather interrupted work at the state Capitol for nearly an hour.

Capitol Police moved quickly to implement severe weather safety procedures after the National Weather Service alerted Tallahassee that a tornado was on the ground and for people to “TAKE COVER NOW!” 

In less than six minutes, the 22nd floor of the Capitol, which offers a panoramic view of the city and can be felt to sway with the wind, was closed, according to a tweet by Politico’s Arek Sarkissian. 

The storm interrupted House committee meetings, forcing lawmakers and staff to seek shelter away from windows and exterior walls.  

“We were escorted to the bottom floor of the Knott Building and into hallways … we were well taken care of down there,” said Rep. Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee. 

Tant said the storm delayed the start of the House’s Public Integrity Committee’ noon meeting by more than 20 minutes.

Senate committee meetings were not in session when the alert was issued at 11:43. 

“(However) Out of an abundance of caution, Senators and staff were advised to stay indoors and away from windows,” said Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta. “The Capitol Building is typically a very safe place to be during a severe weather event.” 

– James Call

City ‘dodged a bullet’ with severe storm 

Leon County’s Emergency Management director said the city may have “dodged a bullet” despite a tornado that touched down and caused minimal damage at the airport.

Kevin Peters said there were no emergency calls reporting damage at homes in the county and the only serious damage reports were of a private, twin engine aircraft that flipped at the Tallahassee International Airport and reported damage to private hangars there.

“It appears we may have dodged a bullet with this particular storm,” Peters said.

More than 500 reported power outages affecting almost 2,500 customers are being addressed by city of Tallahassee crews.

The Florida Highway Patrol has reopened portions of Interstate 10 eastbound after water flooded the road. The middle and outside lanes near the Monroe Street exit are open. 

Airport director: Airfield ‘in pretty good shape’

A tornado left a path of downed trees, a flipped over plane and debris at the Tallahassee International Airport and caused it to close for the better part of two hours.

Airport Director David Pollard said at about 1 p.m. Wednesday, airport officials were still combing over the damage and assessing the rest of the property in the hopes it would reopen soon, possibly as early as 1:30 p.m..

Passengers and staff were evacuated to stairwells inside the airport when severe weather swept in from the west just before noon.  

Pollard said a twin engine, privately owned aircraft was flipped over, several other planes were repositioned by winds and there was damage to private hangar doors and roofs. He described the damage overall as minimal and said no injuries had been reported.

“We immediately focused on doing a damage assessment and the safety of our airfield environment,” he said. “Our airfield looks like it’s in pretty good shape here.”

He noted how quick action inside the airport ensured people were out of harm’s way once tornado warning started to roll in just before noon.

“It’s important that we acted swiftly and immediately when we got the warning,” he said. “It’s an example of how our focus is always on safety.”