"It was skinny—wasn't a big monster or anything," he said. "But look what it did to that traffic light? That's real power."
Cern and his neighbors were some of the most severely affected by the tornado, which touched down near Centennial Boulevard and South Bowser Road. No fatalities have been reported, according to the city.
"The only emergency vehicle we didn't see last night was an ambulance," Cern said. "Apparently, everyone made it out by the hair of their chinny chin chin."
The worst of the storm lasted only about an hour but left behind damage that will require weeks of cleanup and recovery. A statement from the city said crews are responding to multiple reports of downed trees and power lines and damaged buildings.
Cern said he knew something was wrong when he felt a pressure in his eardrums. He heard a loud noise as his garage buckled, and then it was over, he said.
"The debris was raining out of the sky," he said. "It was here and gone."
Down the street, Jerry's neighbor Cindy Dorsay said she had only seconds to grab her dog and move into the bathroom before the tornado hit. An hour after the storm blew through, moisture from the rain caused her roof to cave in.
"It was terrifying—I've lived through a lot of stuff," she said.
As Dorsay assessed the damage to her home, her daughter let her know that part of her front patio was lying in the middle of the street. Pieces of Dorsay's roof had also blown next door and crashed through her neighbors' home and the windshield of their car.
"I talked to them last night—they are all OK," she said.
The smell of natural gas after the storm had neighbors on edge, and many were hesitant to light candles or use generators, Dorsay and Cern said.
"I was scared ... that somebody would get the bright idea of plugging a generator into their house, and without knowing, they would back feed the line all the way down the neighborhood and start a fire a thousand yards away and not realize it," Cern said.
Moments after re-emerging from her bathroom, resident Jessica Gurganus discovered a tree had landed on the roof above her master bedroom. The roof eventually collapsed, leaving much of the back half of her home exposed.
Gurganus described the tree that landed on the roof as a sentimental object of her sons' childhood. They had built a squirrel shelter there and watched critters use it as a nesting place for their young.
There are no longer any trees on her property, where she has lived for 20 years, she said.
"We are going to miss it—it will be an adjustment," she said. "It gave us so much joy. I know it sounds silly about a tree, doesn't it?"
Down the road at Cutter's Point Apartments, Florence Salam and her family stood outside and peered into what used to be their unit. So far, they have not been permitted to enter and gather their belongings. Her children were dressed in their pajamas. Salam wore a dress borrowed from her sister.
Salam said she was at work and on the phone with her children when the tornado hit. During the phone call, the roof came off, and windows shattered.
"All of the sudden, I heard them scream," she said "They were really scared."
The family is unsure where to turn to next, Salam said.
Across US 75 in the Richardson Heights neighborhood, residents on Sherwood Drive walked their block to assess the damage. At Sherwood and Weatherred Drive, crews worked to dismantle a large tree blocking the roadway.
Resident Mary Soto said as she and her son sheltered in the hallway during the storm, she could hear suction pulling at her roof.
"I thought my home was going to go up ... You could hear the wood cracking," she said.
Many of the homes on Sherwood are unscathed, but tree debris totaled some cars and damaged some roofs. The south side of the block was still without power as of 10 a.m. Monday.
For many, the next step is to file insurance claims, which means documenting the damage. Gurganus said her family has already begun the process.
"An adjustor will come out to assess the damage," she said, "and as soon as they do and get everything approved, hopefully we will start getting everything removed."