Tornadoes cut through Florida and Georgia on Friday, blowing homes off foundations, felling power lines and snapping majestic oak trees as a record series of winter tornadoes continued to pound the United States.

The National Weather Service had preliminary reports of at least 10 tornadoes that flipped cars, damaged homes and interrupted power supplies in northern Florida and southern Georgia. Minor injuries were reported, but no deaths.

Florida resident Joe Thornton said had left for work when he got a call that a tornado had ripped through his house in Capitola, near the state capital Tallahassee.

He returned home to find pieces of his neighbor's metal roof wrapped around his trees. His mules, Curly and Ella, were covered in grass and broken twigs and were grumpy but unhurt.

"It doesn't take but one of these tornadoes to make a lifetime of premiums worthwhile," Thornton said. "I feel blessed we're all OK."

Jail inmates were put to work cutting up ancient live oak trees snapped in half by the windstorm that residents said swept through in a flash.

"I got up to go to the bathroom and by the time I was done it was over," said Capitola resident Brett Winchester.

The weather service's Storm Prediction Center counted 368 tornadoes in January and February, far above the three-year average of just under 60 for the two winter months.

A swarm of twisters in early February killed at least 57 people in four states, the deadliest onslaught in two decades.

Ferocious storms that can spin up winds of more than 300 mph (500 kph), tornadoes can occur at any time of the year but the season rarely picks up until March.

The early spike in tornado activity was due to peculiar weather patterns sending successive wave troughs across the United States, said Greg Dial of the Storm Prediction Center. "These patterns don't last forever," he said.


Some climate experts say it would be reasonable to see an earlier start to the tornado season as a result of global warming, but not necessarily more tornadoes overall as the end of the season would also occur earlier.

Around 800 twisters are recorded every year in the United States, most in the "Tornado Alley" Plains area between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. They kill on average 80 people each year in the United States.

Increased tornado activity has also been associated with the La Nina weather phenomenon, an unusual cooling of waters in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every few years, said Jeff Masters of the Weatherunderground Web site.

Reliable records on tornadoes only stretch back to 1950, however, meaning there is probably insufficient data on twisters to draw any firm conclusions, Masters, a hurricane expert, noted in a recent blog.

"It will be at least 10 more years before we can say with any confidence that a warming climate is leading to an earlier peak in tornado season," he said.