Families frustrated after two EF-1 tornadoes hit Charlotte Co.

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CHARLOTTE COUNTY – The National Weather Service confirmed two EF-1 tornado touched down in Charlotte County overnight.

The NWS reports the wind reached 100 miles per hour and hit 0.2 miles outside of Punta Gorda. The other tornado started as a waterspout on the Intracoastal waterway racing in from the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in Manasota Key.

Families were picking up the pieces of their homes Tuesday afternoon.

Officials believe the tornado hit the Palm Shores community northeast of Punta Gorda on Aspen Road near US-17, where a barn was destroyed. The homeowner said the destruction began just after 10 p.m. and ripped off the barn’s roof. Additionally, his truck with a horse trailer attached was picked up by winds and landed on its roof.

“A tornado must have went through. He said your barn is gone and part of it is in my backyard,” said resident Gayle Rogers.

Metal rolling doors were bent and pushed around, furniture could be found in the trees and insulation scattered around in the yards.

Down the road, the high winds also tore the roof off Anneke Mander’s home.

“We were in bed. My daughter went downstairs to go to the bathroom and not a minute later, everything breaks lose,” Manders said. “Pure scared. Pure fright. It was just very loud. Very scary. Just I’ve never felt that before. It was horrible.”

According to authorities, nine properties sustained damage as a result of the tornado.

“Frustration. Just like everything, we lost everything, but I thank God we’re all OK,” Manders said.

Trees surrounding the property were uprooted from the ground.

“Oh, I’m just shocked. I can’t believe how fast things can change and how much we take for granted,” Rogers said.

But admist all the shock, a subtle reminder she didn’t realize she was wearing: Live laugh love.

“Oh it’s an old shirt, but it’s one of my sayings,” she said. “Look for the good things in life because they’re there. That’s all.”

What happened in Manasota Key?

Manasota Key, an area that often struggles with erosion issues, was hit hard. Residents woke up to fallen trees, mangled lawn equipment among other damage. In all, the tornado damaged 24 properties.

One of those properties was owned by Toni and Tom Orr. From the front of the house, it looks pretty similar to how they bought it in 1979. From the back, a much different scene.

“I was sitting in a chair. My husband sitting in another chair. It was thundering, heard the waves and the rain kind of changed,” Toni said.

A living room that now looks more like a back porch as the roof was ripped off revealing the sky that dropped a tornado at precisely 9:16 Monday night.

Toni knows the precise time the storm hit because that’s the time the clock is stuck at as it froze after the storm knocked out their power. That’s when the couple scrambled for cover.

“When I was shutting this door, I could hear the woo, the low pitch they talk about with the train, and I knew something,” Toni said. “I was gonna go into the bathroom. As I opened that door, stuff was flying, so I shut it. This door was already shut and deadbolted, so I dropped down to the ground here, and dropped down to my feet and did the maneuver we teach the kids.”

“My husband and I [were in different areas]…we were yelling back and forth to see if we were OK.”

Amazingly, among all of the shattered glass and scattered debris, some memories were left completely undisturbed. One of them being a picture frame of Toni’s mother who bought the house as her dream home in the late 70s.

Utility crews are trying to return power to 140 homes between Pine Street and River Road in Englewood.

The NWS reported another EF-1 tornado hit Broward County.

by Jesse Pagan, Reporter
Posted: Mar 14, 2017 5:15 AM EDT
Updated: Mar 14, 2017 7:30 PM EDT

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Kyrie Wagner