Meteorologist Brandon Black from the Mobile office of the NWS said video evidence acquired following the Fort Walton Beach storm pretty well indicates it was a tornado that touched down in that area.

FORT WALTON BEACH — Investigators for the National Weather Service were at separate storm scenes Friday in Fort Walton Beach and DeFuniak Springs looking to confirm that tornadoes had touched down in both areas Thursday afternoon.


Meteorologist Brandon Black from the Mobile office of the NWS said video evidence acquired following the Fort Walton Beach storm pretty well indicates it was a tornado that touched down in that area.


“We are pretty certain,” he said.


A survey team had been dispatched to investigate. Black said findings would be released later Friday.


#Tornado spotted from off Freedom Way and heading over Wright area around 3pm. Reports of multiple trees down but no reports of injuries at this time. @NWSMobile #weather #storms #TORNADOWARNING keep an eye on the skies and stay safe! 😨🌪 pic.twitter.com/EbEeTPsJZK

— OkaloosaSheriff (@OCSOALERTS) April 23, 2020

A “pretty stout looking funnel cloud” appeared to have originated at about 3 p.m. around Freedom Way and moved through Ocean-City Wright before making its way over Choctawhatchee Bay, according to Patrick Maddox, Okaloosa County’s Director of Public Safety.


Fences and bill boards in the storm’s path suffered damage, Maddox said, and there were some reports of trees on homes and shingles blown off roofs.


The county reported power outages at two sewer lift stations and a well site. Maddox said no sewage leaks or permanent damage to structures were reported.


A trailer home on Bracken Road in Crestview was damaged earlier in the day when a tree fell on it. Maddox said storm activity appeared to have been responsible for the destruction, but no tornadoes had been reported in that area of the county.


The funnel cloud that caused substantial damage to the Walton Plaza shopping center at 931 U.S. Highway 331 in DeFuniak Springs also will have to be confirmed as a tornado, said meteorologist Wright Dobbs with the Tallahassee NWF office.



“We’ve seen a few reports. We’re not ruling out that it could have been a tornado,” Dobbs said Friday afternoon. “We’re in the process of surveying it and will probably get a preliminary report out today.”


The storm, which touched down about 3:30 p.m., ripped up sections of roof and air-conditioning units at Walton Plaza, according to Lt. Richard Black of the DeFuniak Springs Police Department. Some windows were also blown out.


Black, the meteorologist, confirmed that the suspected tornado in Fort Walton Beach was not the same suspected tornado that touched down in DeFuniak Springs.


“That was a different part of the storm front,” he said.


The Walton County storm appeared to have done much more damage than the one that passed through Okaloosa County.


Along with Walton Plaza, a Winn-Dixie grocery store at Bob Sikes Road and U.S. Highway 331 also sustained damage. A sign was torn down and pieces of it were blown into the roadway.


Trees were "taken out of the ground and relocated" along the path of the storm, Lt. Black said, and, at a local Walmart, a tree limb took down a power line.


A traffic signal in the area also was blown down, according to Lt. Black, and there were some traffic accidents associated with the storm.


Both the DeFuniak Springs officer and Maddox reported that no injuries were sustained during either storm.


"We were fortunate," Lt. Black said.


Staff Writer Jim Thompson contributed to this article.