WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Severe storms in Florida resulted in tornadoes, wind damage and flooding as part of a larger storm system moving through the East Coast on Tuesday.
The severe weather was experienced from the Florida panhandle to South Florida, where a tractor-trailer overturned on Interstate 95 north of Miami near where one possible twister was reported.
A recent pattern of increased tornado activity in the United States is attributed to a strong El Niño weather event. Severe storms and a tornado in the Florida counties of Escambia and Santa Rosa dealt significant damage and left thousands without power.
The tornado touched down Monday near Century, Fla. Escambia County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka said up to 30 homes were damaged, some of which were totally destroyed.
The storms also left damage that has yet been evaluated in Alabama and in Mississippi, as the possibility of tornadoes hitting those states is being determined. The severe weather in the Southeast is part of a larger weather system sweeping over nearly the entire eastern United States, from Louisiana to the Canadian border.
"It really just happened out of nowhere," Marcus Gillard told the Pensacola News Journal. "I mean, reading the news I saw bad weather was coming our way but nothing like the tornado that literally touched down for maybe two minutes and just left."
At least two people were injured and taken to hospitals. Officials were working to complete damage reports.
Four schools in North Escambia were closed Tuesday due to tornado damage.
"I heard a big explosion," Murphy's USA Gas station employee Darien Pickard told the Pensacola News Journal. "I saw this big black tornado rip right down the street. I had to go to the middle room to let it pass.
"It is all very scary. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy," he said, adding that he was trapped inside the gas station due to strong winds.
The National Weather Service warned a strong storm system is expected to affect the East Coast and could reach New England states by Tuesday night. Freezing rain is expected across parts of the Northeast, where about a quarter-inch of ice could accumulate.
"Snow is expected on the back side of the surface low from eastern Kentucky to western New York state where the cold air will be deepest," the National Weather Service said. "Numerous winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings are in effect for this event," mostly in the Northeast.
On Wednesday, a cold front and a low pressure system are forecast to hit the West Coast -- bringing with it possible mountain snow through Thursday.
"The Cascades and Sierra Nevada are expected to get the greatest snowfall totals, with amounts in excess of one foot likely," the National Weather Service added. "Precipitation is also expected from Nevada to Colorado as the front moves inland."