Valrico community believes tornado blew through

Mobile home damage

Valrico, Fla. -- Some people living in one Valrico neighborhood say they believe it was a tornado that tore through their community Thursday night. They live at the Town 'n' Country mobile home park which is at 1220 N. Valrico Road.

While neighbors are starting to clean up, it will be up to the National Weather Service to determine if the storm was a tornado. The neighbors 10News WTSP spoke with say they did not see a funnel or any type of rotation.

Josh Deibern watched the storm barreling down from inside his home with his wife and children who are ages 11 and 2. He says it was around 6:30 or 7 p.m. He adds, "All of a sudden - just wind gusts - 60 to 70 miles an hour started picking things up and knocking trees down. And just like that, it was gone after about two minutes."

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Large oak trees came crashing down on mobile homes and cars. Another huge tree fell down pulling a power line down with it. Deibern says, "Believe or not everybody seems to be okay and that's the best thing about it  because we're all so close."

Deibern adds he's lucky because a tree near his home was recently cut back. He says, "My home is okay. Luckily they cut our tree down right next to us. If the tree wasn't down, we might have had a problem. Obviously they're nice to look at but they're not nice to look at when they've crashed down on your home. This is such a great community. Everybody is so caring for each other so it's just kind of sad to see that some people can't go back to their homes."

Diebern's neighbor Bruce Pietri was outside his home when the storm came barreling through. He was smoking a cigarette. He says, "I was sitting in my truck and it was raining. I felt my truck start rocking. I ran inside to get my wife and daughter down and she wasn't there."

Pietri's wife was home but their 12-year-old daughter was next door visiting a friend. Pietri ran over right after a huge tree came crashing down crushing a minivan and a portion of his neighbors house too. He says he could hear screaming from inside the home and so pushed his way inside.

One woman was sleeping in the area where the tree came down. Melissa Mason says it was her mother. She says she survived but had to be rushed to the hospital. Mason says, "There was no blood. She wasn't hurt like that. She was pretty incoherent. She got hit hard. A tree fell on her."

At this point, code enforcement officials say 7 mobile homes were destroyed mainly along one street while several others inside the park were damaged.

Power was shut off for a while but was eventually restored Friday morning. Diebern says, "We're not used to living without electricity or water for our daily lives but you just got to make the best out of it. It makes you appreciate the little things in life."

Meanwhile, one resident says the mobile home company is trying to relocate renters to different mobile homes sites within the park.


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