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Fort Myers Beach doesn’t escape thunderstorm’s wrath

By Staff | Jan 13, 2016

Lois Smith isn’t certain what hit her house Saturday, but she knows it packed a punch.

“I heard it was a waterspout,” she said, “but I didn’t see it. I just felt it. All I know is it only picked on me.”

Indeed, her house at 120 Gulfview Ave. in the middle part of Estero Island was the only one on her street to take on significant damage.

“I lost my roof, my screened-in porch, and my bedroom ceiling is now on the floor,” said Smith, who was home alone when a storm socked the island around 7:30 p.m. “It was sudden ‘whoosh’ and it was just for a moment. I saw the attic door fly open and water start pouring in. I was busy grabbing pots to catch the rain. I had no idea how much damage had occurred.”

The stormy night featured an EF-2 tornado that cut a path through Cape Coral, but damage to Fort Myers Beach consisted mostly of the minor variety and was mostly limited to the area along Strandview and Gulfview avenues.

As for Smith, an Indiana resident who owns the home and has lived at it seasonally for 30 years, she said she has yet to receive an insurance estimate from her insurance company as she inspected the debris on Monday.

Her son, Craig, lives nearby and made arrangements to have the house covered by a tarp just a few hours after the storm, she said.

Even her car fell victim to bad luck, its only damage being a circular indentation and spider-web crack on the windshield. Next to it on the ground sat a coconut.

“Gee, do you think that’s what did it?” she said, bringing a bit of levity to the situation.

Vacationing from Minnesota in the neighboring home were Mike and Jan Dockendorf.

“We were home, upstairs, and when we heard that freight-train noise we just hit the floor,” said Jan Dockendorf. “We know that sound from going through tornadoes back home. We heard the palm trees snapping and the tin and aluminum tearing off the house next door. Thankfully, it jumped right over us.”

Jan Dockendorf feels the storm’s narrow path and touchdown-and-bounce-back-up characteristics point to it being a waterspout.

“We have condos in Galveston (Texas) so we’ve seen this before. Waterspouts are common there,” she said.

Minor damage also occurred at the Ocean Harbor condo complex, 4753 Estero Blvd., consisting mostly of bent and/or torn-off carport roofs and broken branches, light poles and fences.

The pool area was in the path, scattering furniture about, but no injuries were reported, said the complex’s manager.

He said an insurance adjuster would be visiting later in the week.

Across the street is the gulf-front Newton Park, which appeared to go unscathed.