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Tornado damages 23 homes

By Staff | Aug 17, 2009

Cape Coral residents expect nasty weather during the summer months. They expect rain, lightning and thunder. Hurricanes are a staple here.
However, the Hill and Binder families, who live along Northwest 3rd Avenue, were not expecting a tornado to meander down their street and narrowly spare their lives — though that is what they got Sunday.
Jessica Hill’s Honda Civic had smashed against the side of her home at 1813 N.W. 3rd Avenue. Diana Binder’s roof was damaged, windows blown out, random objects scattered in her yard and sucked from her home to other yards.
These are the images of the aftermath of a tornado that passed through north Cape Coral Sunday at about 4:42 p.m.
“It hit the back of the car and flipped it onto its front end, onto the house,” said Hill’s husband, Steven, relaying the story his wife had told him. Steven was not home when the tornado hit, but noted the car had somehow flipped over a truck parked beside it, which remained undamaged.
Seven and Jessica live with their two children, 3 years and 3 months old.
The Hills also had some roof and landscape damage, though Steven said he was grateful no one was harmed.
“Everything can be fixed, everyone’s OK,” he said. “We’re definitely good with that.”
A few houses down from the Hills, Robert Binder and friend Robert Smith placed a tarp over their roof where the storm had caused damage. Plywood had quickly been placed over shattered windows after the weather cleared.
“I heard the noises,” said Diana Binder, Robert’s wife. “The famous freight train noise. I told my kids to get in the safe room that we have, and our front window blew in. It actually sucked a toy off the windowsill.”
Diana said her husband and Smith attempted to close the garage door as the storm sucked items from inside the garage area, and even witnessed the Hills’ car become airborne, but the power went out before they were able to pull the door down.
Diana, Robert and their four children also had damage to their well and gutters, and among the items in their back yard was a camper top, but they are also thankful for their lives.
“Everything’s find,” Diana said. “We’ll get it fixed.”
Amazingly, the Binders rode out Hurricane Charley in their home with no damage.
The tornado ravaged their neighborhood only three days after the 5-year anniversary of the category-4 storm.
“This is the only time we’ve actually had damage to our home,” Diana said.
According to city spokesperson Connie Barron, the tornado touched down near Northwest 18th Terrace and Northwest 3rd Avenue, damaging 23 homes and overturning a vehicle. Additionally, at least three structure fires were reported as a result of lightning strikes, all within a 30-minute period during the storm. The fire damage to the homes was minor to moderate.
Barron said the city was initially unable to receive mutual aid from other departments because of the severe weather issues in various nearby areas.
The tornadic activity was a result of a moist tropical southeasterly flow from the wake of tropical storm Claudette, currently located near the panhandle, mixing with daytime heating, according to Accuweather.com Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck.
“When you get near a tropical storm, it puts a little bit of extra spin in the atmosphere,” Smerbeck said.
The rotating clouds increase the possibility of forming tornadoes, he said.
A tornado warning was lifted at 5:15 p.m. for parts of northwestern Lee and southwestern Charlotte counties.
As Cape Coral takes a reprieve from tornadoes, tropical depression Ana and tropical storm Bill are churning their way through the Atlantic.
However, it seems unlikely either storm will make landfall in the sunshine state, Smerbeck said.
Ana, which has been strengthening and weakening and most recently was downgraded to a tropical depression, could have been a survivor,” Smerbeck said. “There’s still some chance it will come back to life.”
However, “We’re pretty confident it’s going to pass south of Florida,” he said.
As for Bill, “Bill’s going to be a big hurricane,” Smerbeck said. “It has all the signs of a strong developing cyclone.”
At this point forecasters believe Bill will travel west by northwest and will strike somewhere along the Carolina coast mid to late next weekend, though the travel paths of hurricanes are often difficult to predict with exactitude, Smerbeck said.
“Once these hurricanes get established, sometimes they can alter the environment ahead of them,” he said.