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Storm damages homes in St. James City

By Staff | Jan 13, 2016

As Cape Coral picks up from a quick-moving tornado that damaged 178 homes, destroying one, residents in a St. James neighborhood are also picking up the pieces this week.

Compared to the damage of the EF-2 tornado that ran a path of destruction an estimated 3.4 miles long and 182 yards wide in the Cape, the damage in and around Pine Island Cove is mild in comparison.

But for those dealing with the loss of roofs, carports and lanais, it’s no less distressing.

Cell phone owners with storm warning applications were the first to know about the dangerous weather.

“We were out to dinner in the Cape when the alert came over my phone,” Tony Zuppardo said. “When we were leaving the restaurant it was raining very hard so we waited for a while before we could get to the car. My wife Charisse and I were driving down Stringfellow Road and I could see some kind of damage but at first I didn’t realize it was my own house. We lost some of the roof and the dogs were frightened but thankfully that’s all we had.”

“I have to say both the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the Pine Island Fire Department came by to make sure no one was hurt,” Zuppardo added. “The Fire Department even checked the inside of the house for us. They are absolutely wonderful and I wanted to let everyone know.”

Richard Nadeau and Terry Kendra are from Michigan and have owned their home on Catfish Lane for 2-1/2 years.

“It’s a bit of a surprise,” Zuppardo said. “I didn’t know there were tornados down here. We got down here from Michigan on Nov.1. I was driving home south on Stringfellow in the storm and the rain was so heavy I pulled over and parked in the Moose parking lot. I parked there for about 15 or 20 minutes and when I got home it was still raining hard so I didn’t notice the damage. When I got inside Terry asked, ‘Did you see what happened to the house?'”

Terry Kendra was home when the storm struck.

“It was raining very hard and I just looked out the side window when I saw the roof of the carport tear off the house,” Kendra said. “I’ve never seen anything like it it was terrifying and I screamed.”

Ralph Mugerdichian lives directly across Stringfellow from Pine Island Cove.

“It sounded to me like a hail storm,” Mugerdichian said. “I was watching TV and heard the rain and then I guess it was about 7p.m. what sounded like hail on the roof. I have two palm trees and the one in the back fell to the side missing my house completely. But the one in the front just missed the house. It looks like the tornado went right down the dirt road. So I was very lucky – how it mostly missed me I don’t know.”

The damage was restricted to two streets in Pine Island Cove, Catfish and Gulf Shore Road.

Whether the damage on Pine Island was caused by a tornado is still not known, officials with the National Weather Service said Monday. Officials at the office in Ruskin also did not know, as yet, whether it may have been the same twister that roared through southwest Cape Coral – almost a clear path across the Sound – shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday.

With winds peaking at an estimated 132 mph, the tornado had the wind force the equivalent to a Category 3 hurricane