Photos by Taylor Guillerm, Paula Rushand Beacon staff
Early Sunday morning, Jan. 16 storms swept through our area preceding a cold front. As the morning progressed reports started to come in that more than 20 mobile homes were damaged or destroyed at Gasparilla Estates Mobile Home Park’s south end, a location off Gasparilla Road. Apparently an EF-1 tornado with peak winds of 110 mph and a path approximately 50 yards wide came through at 6:37 a.m. Some of the homes in Gasparilla Estates were completely destroyed. Others lost roofs or sections of wall. In one case a pontoon boat was pushed on top of a mobile home. Two people were injured but there were no fatalities. Gasparilla Marina, which is right next door to the mobile home park, also suffered damage. Metal siding and some steel framework was ripped off at least one storage building, and there was damage to boats as well. One boat was flipped on its side next to a gas pump. Canopies were also ripped off some of the outside storage area. A large field of debris extended almost entirely throughout the farm field next door. Authorities transported residents from Gasparilla Estates to the Ann and Chuck Dever Regional Park Recreational facility on San Casa. The Red Cross responded to help. There are two confirmed websites to donate to the victims of the tornado. Many lost everything. The first is the Charlotte County Foundation, an organization that will match all donations up to the first $15,000. Their website is charlottecf.org. The second is a verified GoFundMe page with an address of https://gofund.me/6c3c9725. It was created by Gasparilla Mobile Estates resident Dave Dietrich, who confirmed that 21 homes were severely damaged or destroyed. No clothing or household items are being accepted at this time – cash only. For more links to more photos and video, go to our Facebook page.