Tornadoes and thunderstorms ripped across Central Florida last night, killing 14 people and destroying homes and businesses. Please say a prayer for all those effected. God bless them all.
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Gov. Charlie Crist has declared a State of Emergency for Lake, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia counties after severe thunderstorms and tornadoes slammed through the areas overnight, killing at least 14 people and leaving pockets of devastation in the communities north and east of Orlando.
The dead include two high school students from Lake County, officials there said this afternoon. Across the region, scores of homes and other buildings were heavily damaged by the storm, which raced through the region between 4 and 6 a.m.
"Our priority today is search and rescue," Crist said at a briefing this morning at the state's emergency operations center in Tallahassee. "We understand that people want to check on loved ones. They should not try to get into the area if they're not already in there. We want to leave the passageways clear for emergency vehicles."
State officials said it could take several days to determine exactly how many people were killed in the violent storms, as they focus first on people still trapped beneath piles of rubble.
"Our focus is on the injured. These are the people we need to get to now," said Craig Fugate, the state's emergency management director.
Crist said he contacted both FEMA and the White House before departing on an aerial tour of the destruction in Central Florida. Attorney General Bill McCollum and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink are traveling with the governor.
Lake County spokesperson Christopher Patton confirmed that 14 people have been killed by the tornadoes. Eleven deaths were reported in Paisley/Lake Mack area and three in Lady Lake in Lake County. No deaths have been confirmed in Volusia County, Volusia Sheriff Ben Johnson said.
Dozens of mobile homes near Lady Lake were destroyed by the storms that hit in the middle of the night. Chairs, beds and clothes were strewn about yards, with debris hanging from trees. Some homes were tossed from their foundations, while others had their roofs ripped off.