More than a month after Iona tornado, victims still see no financial relief in sight

Reporter: Sydney Persing
Published: Updated:
Damage left behind after an EF2 tornado touched down in Iona on January 16, 2022. (Credit: WINK News)

Frustration is mounting for people whose homes were ripped apart by tornadoes. Not a lot has changed for those living in the Century 21 mobile home park in Iona since the twisters hit on January 16.

Last week, FEMA dealt the victims a crushing blow with no money from the federal government to help.

Some of the homeowners have no roof, no, doors, no cars, and some with no money to fix it.

“I pray for a miracle. That’s what we pray for,” said Joyce Schlegal, one of the victims. She lost her family home of 40 years in the tornado and has not seen a miracle yet. “We had a beautiful Christmas Tree with Red Hat ladies in there.”

She said nothing’s been positive about replacing and no government help, federal or state. “Nothing has been positive. It’s been like a waiting game. And I don’t know how long we’re gonna have to wait.”

Craig Fugate was once in charge of FEMA and before that, in charge of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management.

He said, “This was always the hardest part of the job – to be frank with people.

When he worked for Florida he said he asked for FEMA’s help. Sometimes he got it. Sometimes FEMA said no.

He explained, when he worked for the feds he was FEMA. Sometimes he gave aid. Sometimes he said no.

FEMA said no to Florida’s request for help for the tornado victims. Fugate said that’s just the way it goes.

People like Schlegal will have to wait even longer.

He does not expect FEMA to reverse its decision on Florida’s appeal. “Unless you have new information, it’s unlikely to change the outcome. I think we need to be upfront with people that if you didn’t have insurance, it’s unlikely you’re going to be made whole.”

And being made whole is steep. For the Schlegals, it amounts to $100,000.

Cathi Cimenaro lived there and said she was too drained to talk on camera after calling and calling and calling her insurance company all day. But she did say, it’s costing her probably close to $75,000 to 100,000.”

The state and Lee County have touted lists of charities and agencies available to help. And one of the victims said she got gift cards galore.

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