Tornado cleanup under way in FL town

Volunteers and financial donations sought in Eustis.

BY HEATHER MOYER | EUSTIS, Fla. | September 24, 2007

LASER is still helping residents affected by the devastating Feb. 2 tornado in Lake County. Tart said the Eustis tornado completes a line of damage across the county.
Credit: Mark Wolfe/FEMA

Cleanup from a tornado that damaged more than 100 homes in Eustis continued Sunday.

"We have a wonderful response already," said Michael Tart, president of Lake and Sumter Emergency Recovery (LASER).

LASER - Lake County's long-term recovery organization - deployed assessment teams door-to-door Friday to check on immediate needs following the Thursday night EF-1 tornado. Teams included case managers from the United Methodist Committee on Relief along with the organization's construction coordinator, who was helping plan immediate repairs to shore up some homes.

Tart said at least 20 homes will need to be completely rebuilt. The county estimated property damage at nearly $6.2 million.

County officials asked volunteers wanting to take part in the cleanup to check in at the Bay Street Baptist Church. Tart said teams from the Southern Baptists and other groups were in town cleaning up debris and removing downed trees.

LASER was coordinating donations and volunteers.

"If anybody wants to donate or volunteer, they should visit the LASER Web site or call our office," he said.

A shelter remained open at the church. Power was restored to the community Friday night.

Tart said residents seemed to be coping well, although they did seem "shell-shocked" on Friday. He said he was just as unnerved by the severe weather, having heard the storm cell go over his town before it touched down in Eustis. He had expected the damages to be even worse than they were.

Tart said residents were moving forward because of support from volunteers and local officials.

He added that Southern Baptist spiritual care teams were in town and that he planned to contact Project Hope to assist with mental health needs.

Lake County was hit Feb. 2 by a deadly tornado that destroyed hundreds of homes across north central Florida. LASER is still assisting families recovering from that tornado. Tart said the latest tornado in Eustis was almost exactly in the middle of the two devastated Feb. 2 towns of Lady Lake and Lake Mack.

"We now have the whole county involved," he said.

No major injuries were reported from Thursday's tornado, which was spawned from storms generated by a low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico. That system strengthened into a tropical depression Friday and came ashore as a rain event in Florida and Alabama.

Thursday night's storms also prompted tornado warnings for other Florida counties and brought high winds and heavy rains to some areas.

The Eustis tornado was the second in a week to hit Florida. Residents in Cape Coral were cleaning up from a Sunday night twister that damaged 138 homes and left another 18 uninhabitable. Four homes had major damage.

Cape Coral is just west of Ft. Myers.

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Related Links:


Lake County Web site


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