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LISTEN: Homes Destroyed But Lives Preserved

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Sandra Averhart
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One week after a tornado plowed through the town of Century, severe storms Tuesday night brought another devastating tornado to Escambia County. This time a number of Pensacola area residents are glad to be alive as they begin the recovery process.

The twister ripped a path about two miles long, from Northpointe Blvd over to the Grand Baroque town homes along Escambia Bay on Scenic Highway. Here the sounds of generators are humming throughout the neighborhood, as residents begin to pick up the pieces.

It’s where we found Beverly Sheffield. She says she and her husband were hunkered in the first-floor hallway of their 3-story unit when the tornado touched down.

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Credit Sandra Averhart
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"It was horrible, you know during those two to three minutes that it happened, that it went over. But, I think the most horrible thing was when I looked out and saw what had actually happened. "

Sheffield is referring to the unit that used to be next door. It’s one of four that was completely leveled.

She continued,  "I lost it. I couldn’t deal with anything then. You know, before that, I had been putting tubs, trying to keep the rain from ruining the wood floors and getting towels and things, and when I saw that, I thought, oh my…."

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Credit Sandra Averhart
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Instantly, she began searching for the young couple and young child that lived there.

"I kept going to different people…go you know where they, do you know what happened. Then I finally found their grandmother…and I went from person to person until I finally found out that yes, in fact, the deputy sheriff had transported them. The ambulance couldn’t get in or something and once I found out that, I was better I guess because I could just imagine them under that rubble."

The family found shelter in a first floor closet and miraculously escaped with minor injuries despite that only the steps to their home remained intact. Sheffield’s home suffered damage, too. But, given the situation, she was grateful to still have one.

"I mean when you look out from our third deck on the back, especially, and look down that’s what I’m looking at. I mean, here theirs are leveled and ours is still standing, although it’s got a great deal of damage, it’s still standing."

Robin Garos, who lives in a nearby, single-family neighborhood described the damage to her home also.

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"You know roof, holes in the walls…I’ll have to rebuild the house really. We were in the closet and it’s just exactly like they say on the movies…and it sounded exactly like a freight train. The pressure was so great, and it was quick and you could hear everything blowing and all the windows cracking and it was gone."

Michael Briggs, who lives in a nearby, single-family neighborhood on Gladstone Drive described the damage this way, "Busted windows, sunroof’s blown out, major…just lots of damage…"

His chimney was torn off and he had holes in the walls of his home, but his family was safe. And, like Beverly Sheffield, Briggs was lucky. The house next door was completely destroyed.

As of late afternoon Escambia County was reporting 14 single family homes destroyed as well as 40 major and 100 minor damaged structures in the county. Crews still assessing, and the numbers will grow.

But it was the Moorings Apartment buildings on Old Spanish Trail that suffered the brunt of the damage with three buildings (24 units) destroyed. Angela Barrows is the regional manager for the Moorings ownership

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Credit Sandra Averhart
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She said, "In the three buildings we have 36 units that have been effected. I have not done a sweep of the entire property but there were a few other buildings that suffered damage."

There were a few injuries reported but none serious. On Tuesday Governor Rick Scott saw the damage for himself. Walls from the second floor apartments were blown away and lower units were obstructed by huge mounds of construction debris, furniture, and personal items. Scott said he was amazed that no one was killed.

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