Extensive damage done to Placida homes after EF1 tornado

Published: January 17, 2022 3:53 PM EST
Updated: January 17, 2022 6:51 PM EST

Five tornadoes touched down across Southwest Florida in the span of four hours. Gasparilla Mobile Estates in Placida was one of the hardest-hit areas in Southwest Florida. Nearly one-quarter of the homes there that were under development were destroyed in Sunday’s tornado.

You can see piles of twisted metal lying in the streets. The insides of homes and debris are scattered everywhere.

Douglas Cutler lives in Gasparilla Mobile Estates. “Oh, it’s devastating,” said Cutler.

Cutler has lived in Gasparilla Estates for three years. But he says the sounds he heard Sunday morning were once-in-lifetime and he’ll never forget them . “Started raining, and then heavy rain came through. And then a roar. It was like a train like they say, the train ran through there and then silence,” Cutler said.

Here in Placida, in Charlotte County, an EF1 tornado with 110 mph winds swept through. There are 187 homes in Gasparilla estates and the tornado destroyed 21 of them.

Jerry Allen also lives in Gasparilla Mobile Estates. “It was terrifying,” said Allen.

Along with those 21 homes that were completely destroyed, 16 others saw extensive damage.

The thing wasn’t damaged by the storm – everyone’s spirits. Why? Because everyone in their community survived.

“Someone up there likes us, even though there was all this damage and chaos,” Allen said. “No one was injured and we all still have our lives. Which is not the case in a lot of situations. Even though we are at a loss, we still feel blessed.”

Jerry Allen and his wife, Carol, consider themselves lucky. Winds were whipping all around their home. “It hit me this morning as I walked out. All my neighbors and friends, their places are gone, and there’s nothing we can do about it. And my place sitting like never touched,” said Carol.

So, the Allens are banding together with their neighbors whose homes were spared to help those who saw destruction or significant damage. “We have a generator, and we’ve offered it because we have electricity. We have water, and then you just tell your neighbors if you need anything,” Carol said.

If there’s one thing Jerry wants you to know about his tight-knit community it’s that in Gasparilla Mobile Estates neighbors take care of neighbors. “I would want people to know that we are going to be OK. We’re going to be OK,” he said.

On Monday morning, Charlotte County Commissioners declared a local state of emergency. They hope that triggers either FEMA or the small business administration to make a similar declaration for those needing assistance after the tornado.