Gusts reached 86 mph at Charlotte County's wind gauge on the Tom Adams Bridge over Lemon Bay in Englewood.

At eight other locations, winds reached 50 and 60 mph, then 74 mph on a wind gauge at the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club on the Peace River.

Plywood flew off the construction site of the Sunseeker resort as drivers on U.S. 41 waited to cross the bridge over the Peace River. A video shows boards dropping nine stories near traffic. There were no reports of injuries or damage, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office Community Affairs Specialist Chris Hall said.

Sunseeker owner Allegiant Travel Co. ordered a temporary closure of the work and the securing of construction materials, media relations staff said.

Any wind speed faster than 74 mph is hurricane force, Charlotte County Communication Manager Brian Gleason said. For several hours, sustained winds were at tropical storm force - more than 35 mph, he said.

High winds closed the two U.S. 41 bridges crossing the Peace River. They reopened at 11:37 a.m.

Roofs ripped in Englewood

The winds took a toll on the Holiday Estates mobile home community in Englewood. The storm peeled back 14 roofs. No injuries were reported.

Shirley Holtmeir, a resident of more than 20 years, said she had not seen anything like it. Winds ripped roofs easily and snowed beige and pink roof insulation along Kingfisher Drive.

"It was just the winds," Holtmeir said. "The sirens kept blowing and blowing. I thought there was a fire but I saw no smoke."

The Englewood Area Fire Control District received 25 calls for downed power lines and other storm damage, Battalion Chief Don Pasick said.

Pasick said emergency personnel conducted a house-to-house inspection and cut power to damaged mobile homes.

Sarasota County and Manatee County strike teams assisted the Englewood firefighters.

"I've had a little damage, but I can handle it," Holiday Estates resident David Anthony said.

Damian Ochab, president of the South Manasota/Sandpiper Key Association, said Manasota Key properties sustained mostly minor damage. The winds, Ochab said, took a toll on beachfront along the Gulf of Mexico.

Some sand piled up in the road at Blind Pass Beach on the middle of Manasota Key. 

At Xpertech Auto Repair, it has an unwanted sun roof. Between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m., the wind peeled back the metal roof, Xpertech owner Kathleen Callahan said. The repair shop sustained no other damage.

"Everybody is safe," Callahan said.

Debris in Port Charlotte

Charlotte County closed Port Charlotte Boulevard at the intersection with U.S. 41 due to a damaged traffic signal. Traffic remained backed up on U.S. 41 northbound as crews worked to restore the system. 

Traffic signals were out also on Kings Highway at Westchester Boulevard. At other intersections, the traffic signal arms were damaged, but still operating, Gleason said.  

Power outages peaked in Charlotte County at 23,391 customers at one point, Gleason said. That number dropped to about 10,000 by 5 p.m.; Sarasota County had about 2,000 without power at that point, according to Florida Power and Light outage maps. 

One tornado was reported in southern Lee County. 

"We haven't had anything severe," said Todd Dunn, spokesperson for Charlotte County Fire and EMS.

Two small aircraft were damaged at Punta Gorda Airport due to the wind, according to airport spokesperson Kaley Miller.

"We also had some fence damage and signs twisted, along with tree limbs and palm fronds broken off," she said. 

The South Jetty in Venice was closed Tuesday because of heavy surf, the city of Venice noted in an email it sent out.

Vessels damaged in Charlotte Harbor, Lemon Bay

Heavy winds sank at least one vessel and sent another adrift in Charlotte Harbor on Tuesday morning. An unoccupied sailboat was wedged between pilings of the Tom Adams Bridge in Englewood.

But an official count of just how many boats took damage was not available.

“I am aware of two boats that went adrift — the one that sank and another,” Punta Gorda Police Lt. Dylan Renz told The Daily Sun.  

The boats were moored in the East Mooring Field outside of Laishley Municipal Marina in Punta Gorda between the U.S. 41 and Interstate 75 bridges along with a handful of other large vessels and yachts.

"We saw a couple of boats break loose from the mooring field," boater Aaron Rositch said. "There was another one under the 41 bridges at one point. It's a windy day. You definitely want to stay in." 

Roger Nehring had his 42-foot Grand Banks yacht moored in the east mooring field for three months now.

He decided to head for land after seeing the weather reports.

“I watched the radar and everything all night long and decided I’m not going to stay here,” Nehring said. “I made sure the boat was secured down on the moorings and then I came in to take shelter.”

Nehring explained boat owners have to double secure their vessel in wind storms such as Tuesday’s.

“You’re really dependent upon the mooring ball to keep you stable,” he said. “I made sure I was double tied down and everything to it.”

Daily Sun writers Betsy Calvert, Daniel Sutphin, Steve Reilly, Chris Porter contributed to this story.


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