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Edward Murray, 81, was in his mobile home at Windcrest and Point Breeze in Cottage Point Trailer Park on Sunday morning when a tornado picked up the structure and tossed it on top of a neighbor’s home.
“That’s my house that’s turned upside down,” he said. “The tornado took me off my feet blew me toward the east wall and buried me under the sink, refrigerator, kitchen chairs and everything else.”
Damage reports: Track damage from Sunday’s severe weather here
A former Chicago resident, Murray and his daughter, Kokie, escaped unharmed, crawling from the wreckage.
“I was so happy when I saw the sky,” Murray said. “I said to the devil, ‘It’s not going to be today’.”
Murray’s daughter was in her bedroom and her mattress flipped on her. She crawled out a back window.
The family’s dog, a poodle, is missing.
By mid-morning, residents across Southwest Florida were taking shelter and heeding multiple tornado warnings stretching from north Collier County and across the gulf coast in Lee County and beyond.
10:50 a.m. | Tornado damage in Iona and Fort Myers is being investigated
The National Weather Service had issued the first tornado warning just before 8 a.m.
At the trailer park, workers were boarding up homes and putting plywood as sheriff’s deputies roam through the area. A number of structures have visible damage.
The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado that touched down in Iona in Fort Myers.
By 9:15 a.m., several portions of north Collier County also had tornado warnings. A warning means that a tornado has been confirmed in that area.
A National Weather Service forecaster in Tampa, Stephen Shiveley, said Southwest Florida had an “active weather situation” with a tornado warning in Lee County about 9 a.m. and extending throughout the morning.
He said “something just came ashore.”
8:00 a.m. | Tornado warnings followed soon by “significant” Fort Myers-area storm damage
Earlier, about 8 a.m. residents in Southwest Florida were greeted with a series of strong storms in advance of a strong cold front moving into the region.
There have been TV reports of “significant” damage in some areas with “rotation” on and off shore.
Near the Murrays’ trailer, other residents sustained minor damage.
Jeff Funchion lives across from Murray, and the trailer sustained broken windows.
“I’ve never been through something like this,” he said. “The windows broke and that was it. The TV beeped and then it hit.”
Another resident recounted pretty much the same story.
“I had a rough wake-up call and by the time the windows blew in it was over with,” said Dan Langenfeld, who with his wife, Jan, are originally from Minnesota. “It didn’t last long. The wife, the dogs and I are fine.”
Unopened beer cans mixed in the debris field along a street.
“I think I’ll have a cold one later,” Langenfeld said as he surveyed the damage.
It is a fast-moving system and the damage appears to be taking place in small “pockets” as it moves through Southwest Florida.
Lee County emergency officials were evacuating Tropicana Park, built in 1970, with 470 homesites serving a 55+ community,
According to Florida Power and Light, Lee County had 15,374 people without power at 9:45 a.m. and Collier County had 1,364.
Florida Highway Patrol reported a tornado flipped a semi tractor-trailer truck on its side, blocking traffic in Collier County at westbound 96 mile marker on 1-75, temporarily closing the lanes.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers spotted the tornado at 9:34 a.m. traveling east toward Golden Gate
They reported minor injuries from the crash.
Troopers are on scene and one travel lane remains open.
This is a developing story. Stay with news-press.com and naplesnews.com for continuing coverage. We will have video and photos of the damage throughout the day.
Storm related power outages have been reported in parts of Southwest Florida
FPL reports that 12,348 customers were without electric power in Lee County, 2,588 in Collier County and 659 Charlotte County
In other areas, portions of Lehigh Acres, Cape Coral and Pine Island, and served by the Lee County Electric Cooperative, there are also outages reported.
A total of 266 LCEC customers were reported to be without power, the most significant areas were reported in northeast Cape Coral and in Pine Island, with the most significant damage in Bokelia on the northern end of the island.
11:11 a.m. | What the National Weather Service is saying
Meteorologist form the National Weather Service in Ruskin are on their way to the Iona area to assess the damage so they can better understand the dynamics of the tornado.
“Intensity, track and all that is to be determined, and we have meteorologists headed down there now to assess the damage,” said Stephen Shiveley, with NWS in Ruskin, which covers the Fort Myers-Cape Coral area. “We’ve done lots of studies over the years and to determine intensity we need to see the damage. We’ll be able to estimate the actual wind speed from that.”
The Century 21 Mobile Home Community in Iona was hit the hardest, Shiveley said.
But that wasn’t the only tornado of the morning.
“We had a couple of tornados in the Tampa area and we got severe winds up into the 50s with gusts,” he said. “Gaspiralla Mobile Estates (in Charlotte County) was hit hard and we’re pretty confident that was a tornado too.”
The weather was still strong in Collier County at 10:30 Sunday morning.
George Rizzuto works at the Miami NWS station, which covers the Naples-Collier area, and he said meteorologists there would soon be in the Naples area.
A tornado was reported on various social media near Mile Marker 100 along Interstate 75.
“We did have radar indicating a tornado, and we’ve seen some reports but we need to go out and do actual damage surveys to see if there are tornados on the ground,” Rizzuto said. “We did some see some.”
Rizzuto said meteorologists from Miami will soon visit the Naples area to assess damages there.
“Right now we’re working on finding the damaged areas and then we’ll send someone out in the next couple of hours,” he said.
Meteorologists last week said this front could turn into a strong one, but it doesn’t seem they were expecting multiple tornadoes.
“It is a relatively strong front, and along the western coast we did see some aligning of the ingredients,” Rizzuto said. “It was a perfect storm along the west coast for some tornadic activity.”
11:16 | Power outages update
Florida Power and Light reports that 15,000 customers are without power. An FPL spokesman says crews are working to restore power, but the company does not have a current estimate of when electricity will be restored to all customers.
12:15 p.m. | Collier County reports at least one tornado touching down
Rick Zyvoloski, emergency management coordinator on call from Collier County Emergency Service, said there was one report of a tornado in the Lely community in East Naples but no damage that he could find. That was around 9:30. “There was no damage, just some debris.”
He had not heard of any damage anywhere else in Collier.
A sheriff’s deputy was sent to the Hitching Post mobile home community near Barefoot Williams Road and US 41 E. but did not get back of any damage there.
12:21 p.m. | Red Cross assisting families in need
Volunteers from the American Red Cross Florida Gulf Coast to Heartland Chapter have been coordinating with emergency officials to respond to the severe weather and tornado damage in Fort Myers.
The Red Cross is working closely with emergency officials to support one shelter, providing the impacted families a safe place to stay and determine further assistance needed.
The Red Cross will continue to monitor the evolving situation and work closely with local officials to determine any further needs in the community.
Red Cross volunteers have been trained to follow proper safety procedures and protocols to continue serving communities impacted by local disasters during this global health crisis.
Families in our community, across the country and around the world turn to the Red Cross every day for help because #EmergenciesDontStop. Neighbors still need food, shelter and care after disasters; and military families still need support. Your help is needed to fulfill the urgent needs of our mission today, visit redcross.org/SouthFlorida.
HOW PEOPLE CAN TAKE ACTION:
Make a financial donation to their local Red Cross to help people affected by home fires and other disasters in the United States and around the world. Visit redcross.org/donate.
Visit redcross.org/tornadoes to find safety tips and how to yourself and loved ones from tornadoes.
Become a Red Cross volunteer by applying at redcross.org/sflvolunteer.
Download the Red Cross Emergency App by visiting redcross.org/apps or texting ‘GETEMERGENCY’ to 90999. This all-inclusive app combines more than 35 emergency alerts to help keep the user safe. And the Monster Guard mobile app is specially designed for kids, teaching them to prepare for emergencies at home by playing an engaging game.
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This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Tornado hits Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral Bonita springs | LIVE UPDATES