By Jay Meisel
VERO BEACH - When Joyce Hoffeditz heard the storm coming on Aug. 27, she rushed and took refuge in a bedroom in her Vero Palm Estates manufactured home, she recalled the next day.
As it turned out, the tornado that damaged more than 20 homes in the development, left that bedroom unscathed, while breaking windows of every other room.
"I am thankful to be alive," Ms. Hoffeditz said as she, her husband, Larry and friends tried last week to salvage possessions of the home that was heavily damaged.
The tornado damaged 118 manufactured homes in at Vero Palm Estates and the Countryside mobile home park and 15 single-family homes in Paradise Park subdivision, said Dale Justice, Indian River County's director of emergency management.
Mr. Justice estimated damage at $1 million, which when combined with destruction in Palm Beach County, may make it eligible for a federal disaster declaration. However, that decision as of press time had not been made.
He said such a declaration would make some residents eligible for additional aid depending on whether they have insurance. Mr. Justice suggested that in the meantime, those without insurance could contact the American Red Cross.
Lisa Poziomek, disaster manger for the American Red Cross in Vero Beach, said the organization set up a temporary shelter, which is now closed, and provided residents with some food, water and supplies. They are also providing residents with information about resources that can provide help, she said.
For many of the residents, the tornado was a frightening experience.
Joyce Marracint, another resident of Vero Palm Estates, said she was sitting in her bedroom when she saw the tornado coming.
"All of a sudden the door came at me," she said.
She escaped, but the storm destroyed her porch and carport.
In the wake of the storm, she said, a lot of people in the community where she's lived for two years have helped her.
"There's such nice people here," she said.
The Hoffeditz family also received a lot of help from both friends and family.
But, Mr. Hoffeditz, a teacher at Lincoln Park Academy, said that while he's thankful his wife wasn't injured, he worries about the future.
Since he and his wife were laid off from their teaching jobs and his wife still hasn't found work as a teacher, they couldn't make two house insurance payments.
Now, they face a situation of having to continue to pay make mortgage payments on a house they can't afford to rebuild, as well as a house in Missouri they've been unable to sell since they moved to Florida, he said.
He said in view of that it will be hard to rent or buy a new home.
"I just don't know how we'll do that," he said.
For Sue Stiles, this wasn't her first time to assess the damage after a storm.
In 2004, the hurricanes heavily damaged their home in Vero Palm Estates, she said.
After those storms, she and her husband rebuilt their home.
"We started from scratch," Ms. Stiles said.
The work included putting in new walls, she added.
This time the storm destroyed a room and trees.
She said she plans to move and doesn't want to go through rebuilding a second time.
While Ms. Stiles had storms damage her residence twice, fate was kinder to others.
Another resident, John Benway of Vero Palm Estates, driving by Ms. Stiles' home, said he's been lucky enough to have lived there 28 years and never had any storm damage to his residence.
The storm shattered windows, destroyed carports and rooms, and even moved automobiles.
Although many of the homes in one area of Vero Palm Estates were damaged, others in other sections were left untouched.
One resident said he had moved from one home in Vero Beach Estate to another.
His new home suffered extensive damage, but the old one was unscratched, he said.