Victims of Sunday’s tornadoes figuring out what to do next


The processes of cleaning up the damage from the tornadoes that hit Southwest Florida will be much slower than it took for the storm to cause it. The latest information on the EF2 tornado that swept through Iona shows it on the ground for 16 minutes as it traveled almost eight miles.

A report from Lee County Emergency Management says 44 homes were destroyed, 90 received major damage, 93 received minor damage, and an additional 100 were impacted in some fashion. The county estimates the losses for residential property at $7.1 million, $1.2 million for commercial losses.

What is left are shattered windows, piles of debris, and exposed homes.

Joe LaValley is like so many of his neighbors in Iona who are trying to figure out what to do about the damage.

“Two big trees over my house minus the back bedroom so I’ve got nothing over here. All my clothes and everything else is over here. I’ve got homeowners insurance and I’ve contacted the insurance company, and right now I’m waiting for the guy to come down and take some pictures,” said LaValley.

That wait is agonizing and slow compared to the tornado, which hit hard and fast.

LaValley said, “I’ve got two kids in Houston, Texas. They said, ‘give me a call if we can come over and help you out,’ but so far everybody around here has been fantastic and the response from emergency Lee County, the response right there.”

Brian Larimer, who was also impacted by the tornado, said, all things considered, he’s good.

Larimer told his insurance agent, “we weren’t hit that bad, so go ahead and hit the other folks now and will see him tomorrow, take care of things.”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office has deputies on duty in the areas impacted by the storm to help prevent looters from taking anything more from the people who have already lost so much.

If you want to help those the tornado has impacted, the Iona McGregor Firefighter Association is collecting donations like gift cards, pet and cleaning supplies, gloves, and more.

The firefighter association will be accepting donations from Wednesday until Jan. 25 at any of Iona’s five fire stations. You can find those locations and a complete list of what they do and don’t want to be donated in their flyer below.

Tornadoes also hit parts of Charlotte County and two more swept through Collier County. You can visit the Red Cross website to find ways to donate and volunteer to help victims from all across Southwest Florida.

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