Oak tree uprooted at Indian River County Jail by heavy winds

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - An oak tree with a trunk at least two feet thick was uprooted at the Indian River County jail during a storm on Wednesday afternoon.

According to a preliminary storm report from the National Weather Service in Melbourne, the thunderstorm caused wind damage.

The tree fell to the northeast, and brought down with it a waist-high chain link fence in the middle of the jail's parking lot. One limb of the tree that had broken off was removed from the parking lot and taken to an empty field to be out of the way, according to an witness.

Sherry Matthews, a jail employee, said when the storm blew through, it sounded "like a distant freight train." She said, "It was real windy, and I looked out and saw hail was falling."

Matthews said the storm hit at around five o'clock Wednesday afternoon. "I was on the phone with my husband," she explained. "I told him, 'I think there is a twister coming through.'"

She said the storm knocked over a sport bike that was parked in the parking lot, but she said the owner put the bike back upright, and she did not think the bike suffered any damage.

Initial reports claimed there was possible damage to the jail's roof, but deputy Jeff Luther, spokesperson for the sheriff's office and the Indian River County Emergency Operation Center, said after the jail's captain conducted a thorough investigation, it was determined that the building did not suffer structural damage.

"Someone said they heard there was strong wind, so the captain checked on it," said Luther. "In 2004 and 2005, there was damage from storms then, so he wanted to be careful and double-check. The captain didn't see any roof damage whatsoever. "

Matthews said that a flagpole may have been knocked over at the front of the building, but she was not sure. "We are going to look through everything in the daylight," she added.

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