EDITORIAL: Gasparilla Mobile Estates residents still struggling with storm damage

August 25, 2022
By Marcy Shortuse

It has been more than seven months since the morning of January 16, when an F1 tornado swept the bottom of Cape Haze Peninsula, damaging more than two dozen mobile homes in Gasparilla Island Estates. You would think in that amount of time, certainly the damage was cleaned up and repaired.

But time has been standing still in the little community for some. According to park residents, most of those whose homes were severely impacted by the storm are still struggling to get permits from the County and/or to get contractors to start the job. 

In March Gov. Ron Desantis announced that the state had paid out $430,000 to 43 households impacted by the Southwest Florida tornadoes, through the State of Florida’s tornado donation portal. Within less than a month of launching the portal, more than $1.1 million has been raised to support impacted residents.

But Gasparilla Mobile Estates residents saw none of that. They were told they didn’t quality. So two months after the storm hit, they were still only allowed to look through the windows of the buildings that were once their homes, as according to Charlotte County they were not allowed inside.

Following the federal government’s denial of Florida’s request to provide assistance to individuals impacted by the tornadoes that touched down in Charlotte and Lee counties on January 16, the State of Florida launched a donation portal to provide immediate relief for disaster survivors impacted by the tornadoes. The State partnered with the Charlotte Community Foundation to collect and disburse donations for disaster survivors. 

Whether any of the residents of GME received anything at all from those funds, it isn’t enough to complete the work that needs to be done. So they sit. They wait.

Park residents have said that many contractors were skittish about Charlotte County taking the hard line stance that they did regarding what work could and couldn’t be done. It left not only contractors confused, but park residents as well. They are seeking someone who can consult with them – an attorney or otherwise – on a volunteer basis to see what their options are. Understanding the intricacies of the regulations involved in a situation like this will take someone with a lot of professional building experience or legal experience, and the residents know that.

If you can help in any way, contact the Boca Beacon’s editor, Marcy Shortuse, at mshortuse@bocabeacon.com. They’ve waited long enough.  

Marcy Shortuse is the editor of the Boca Beacon Newspaper