The Iona community is beginning to recover after seeing some of the most extensive damage in Southwest Florida following this morning’s storm.
WINK News reporter Breana Ross spent much of the day on Sunday along Windcrest Drive in Iona. For now, these neighbors are still in cleanup mode.
One of the mobile homes along this road quite literally folded into itself. Luckily, every person and pet that lived there got out safely.
#BREAKING 🌪️ Southwest Florida / Iona tornado rated an EF-2. Max wind 118 mph while on the ground for under 2 miles. This is our first local EF-2 in 6 years (Cape Coral – 2016). @WINKNews @spann pic.twitter.com/hYTITBmjsF
— Matt Devitt (@MattDevittWINK) January 16, 2022
Edward Murray’s world has now been turned upside down. A tornado picked up his home and flipped it onto its roof. His daughter and their dog, Coco, were inside at the time.
“It sounded like a racing train. It was really loud, and it took me off my feet and blew me against. I believe it’s the East wall, and as I heard the sound coming, I got up to go get my daughter,” Murray said.
But, Murray believes God was watching over him and his family. “God was so good to me he gave me a little cradle there. I was in the fetal position trapped by the sink, the refrigerator, the kitchen chairs and a whole bunch of rubble over on top of me,” said Murray.
The rubble didn’t crush Murray, and he was not seriously injured. First responders were able to get to him quickly. His 16-year-old daughter didn’t have such an easy time getting out, though.
“The storm went in, turned her bed over, and she was able to crawl out of the back window,” Murray said.
But, on Sunday morning, one family member was still missing. “Unfortunately, we lost our dog. We can’t find our dog, who is Coco. He is only 18 pounds, but he is buried underneath that garbage,” said Murray, getting emotional.
Despite the mess and debris lining the streets, neighbors, friends and even strangers banded together to salvage anything left in the rubble and look for Coco.
Two neighbors later found him at the home’s highest point, where no one else had looked. Rusty Farst is one of the neighbors who found Coco. “Mike got in and crawled up and looked down and said, got the dog right here! So he made his way inside and passed him off to me, and I carried him out and handed him to the people here,” said Farst.
Michael Joffe also helped find Coco. “He was kind of in the middle of the room shaking like a leaf,” said Joffe.
Although Edward Murray’s home and life are upside down, he still has his daughter and his dog. He is still safe and sound.
“I said to the devil when I looked up and saw that I said today ain’t the day! You’re not going to get me and thank God that the fire department, the EMS, and the neighbors all made that come true,” said Murray.
Many are concerned about what they’ll do and where they’ll go because their homes are now uninhabitable. Several neighbors told WINK News they did not have insurance on their mobile homes, so their future is uncertain.
WINK News reporter Sydney Persing went to Century 21 RV Park also in Iona. After the tornado hit, there was a lot of debris to see. Between ceiling fans dangling slightly above floors to sheet metal hanging from trees to detached doors, there’s a lot to look at in the wake of a tornado.
There’s also a lot to hear, which might not be something expected. There are the sounds of tears. “I could lose my house. I don’t want to do that. Hopefully, with the grace of God, I did call my insurance company. So maybe be okay. I don’t know.”
And of course, the sound of shock, when people find out many of their belongings are gone. “It’s like my worst nightmare. I was stuck in here. I couldn’t get out and I didn’t know I was by myself and the place was rocking back and forth and I thought I was gone.”
And in some places, there were sounds of relief as people found things that were saved. Linda Staley went for pictures of her grandchildren. “I did get those most of them out, they got a little wet,” said Staley.
When Mary and Steve Glowacki took cover, they made sure to bring their favorite girl with them. “The ashes of our dog. Yeah, she went into the bathtub with us,” the Glowackies said.
Cathy Ciminero made sure to save whatever she could of her late husband’s. He’s the one who made this now total loss of a house, a home.
“The blanket from his funeral,” Ciminero said, crying. “I’m sorry.”
The sounds of loss are just as devastating to hear as seeing the damage.
However, the fight in the community as they begin recovery is remarkable. Ciminero decided to wipe her tears away and hold onto what she could.
She then grabbed a sign that said, “Sand will brush off. Salt will wash off. Tans will fade. But memories last forever.”
And that is what strength sounds like. “I guess it’ll take some time….you have to be thankful for what you have I guess,” said Ciminero.
At Anderson’s Tackle Shop in Iona, debris flew through the air as the wind picked up earlier on Sunday. Trees were also knocked down.
Those filming the video said it was one of the scariest moments of their lives.
John Anderson owns Anderson’s Tackle in Iona. “It looked like… like a bunch of birds. When you zoom in on the video, you can actually see it’s pieces of roof and pieces of cars or whatever it was,” said Anderson.
The intensity of the tornado in Iona was able to uproot a tree while it was still lodged into a concrete median. Anderson was at his shop at the time. “I felt like I was in the eye for one second,” he said.
Once that tree fell, John Anderson and his customer knew it was time for them to head inside. And the winds only continued to grow stronger.
“Oh, there goes the trees! Holy cow!”
“The tree over here just rips down the flag pole and all this stuff starts coming down. And I said we got to get in here,” Anderson said.
You can hear the sheer force of the tornado in the video.
Anderson and his customer attempted to close the door but the wind made that a challenging job. It took them several tries before they could finally close.
“I’m trying to hold it like that. Shutting it and both of us start pulling it and I couldn’t get this latch shut because the pressure was pulling it so much. And I’m like I can’t lock it. I can’t lock it,” said Anderson.
John Anderson owns Anderson’s Tackle in Iona. “I’ve been in some scary situations like especially on the boat with bad weather. But that was one of the scariest times I’ve had, especially when the doors slipped open I thought for sure I was flying out with the pots and the other stuff,” said Anderson.
Moments after the tornado ripped through, and the two opened the door to see what damage had been left behind. “There’s debris in the trees and broken branches from that debris and I’m thinking man if that hit you in the head it can cut your head off,” Anderson said.
There were several downed trees and paneling coming off the building next door. Anderson says he’s lucky his store suffered little damage. There used to be an ice machine in this location. But due to the strong winds from that tornado, it was lifted off its foundation and thrown forty feet into the parking lot. There were also poles snapped in half.
His potted plants that weight more than 150 pounds flew right out the window. And his tackle shop lost power for six hours on Sunday.
A family that recently moved to the Iona area lost almost everything as the tornado ripped through.
A trailer full of memories and momentous was crushed and overturned during Sunday’s storms.
Keith Seiter and his family just moved to Southwest Florida. They drove all the way here from Indiana. And, all of their things had been packed inside of that trailer during that move.
Now, it has been destroyed due to a tornado. “I was in bed watching the station and saw a tornado warning issued for the area of McGregor and Iona,” said Seiter.
After seeing that warning the family went to check on their belongings. “I turned the corner and didn’t see the truck or trailer. I was like oh my god did they tow it,” Seiter said.
They were then shocked to find the trailer and its contents were strewn across the Big Lots parking lot.
Seiter says his breath was taken away. “I was crushed… I was literally crush. My wife was in tears. It just blew us away,” Seiter said.
For them, it was about more than just the loss of material things. “There’s a lot of things my father and mother left me when they passed away.. some stuff from her grandma and mother left when they passed away.. some are destroyed,” said Seiter.
As he fought back tears, Seiter was able to recover a few pieces. Now, he and his wife are hoping for a new start.
Water Ln is just off of McGregor Blvd in Iona. In one house, the Christmas decorations were still up. Will Compton lives in the house along Water Ln.
“What a mess…,” Compton said, surveying the damage.
He and his sons were able to at least put a dent in the cleanup efforts, but Will and Jean could only do so much.
Jean Cowper was assisting Compton in the cleanup. “It’s too overwhelming for us to clean up. And as much as we’re picking things up and moving them to another spot. We’re really not accomplishing anything,” said Cowper.
Actually, life has been twisted upside down for most of the people who live along Water Ln. Pieces of their homes literally flew away, and the things they would think would blow away stayed put.
Bob Morrow also lives on Water Ln. “We thought for sure this wouldn’t be here,” Morrow said.
You see, Morrow loves his big parrot. “The parrot was in an amusement park up in Marble Head, Ohio. It was put up there in 1959. I purchased the parrot,” Morrow said.
And, though he says he’ll never forget January 16, 2022, he knows things could have gotten so much worse. “He withstood this and the hurricane, so he might be here forever,” said Morrow.
“We figured he’d be in some neighbors yard,” Morrow said. “We thought he would fly away for sure this time.”