Friday, February 02, 2007
Tornado victim digs for daughter's gift

Rescue workers search mobile homes in Lady Lake, Florida.

As we pulled into the Lady Lake mobile home park in Florida, the first thing we notice is sheet metal hanging from trees. Some of the park's mobile homes were lifted right off their concrete pads and tossed more than 400 yards away, their metal exteriors catching in trees along the way.

Gene Barthauer, 86, was in bed last night when he heard the horrific winds whipping past. The next thing he knew his house was ripped apart. He waited beneath the rubble for nearly 20 minutes before neighbors came with flashlights.

Now, Gene and his neighbors use crowbars and hammers trying to dig down to his closet. He has no insurance -- it was cancelled last year. All he wants is to find the jacket his daughter Lynne gave him -- a Michigan jacket.

Across the street is a stark reminder of how lucky he is to even have some rubble to pick through. The only thing left of the home across the street is a sofa and the bare concrete pad on which it stands.

The elderly woman who lived there was killed. Her body was found with much of her mobile home in an adjacent field.

For Gene, life in Florida is over. He says he is going to move north to live with his daughter. About an hour after we arrive, there are cheers -- Gene found his beloved jacket.
Posted By Rusty Dornin, CNN Correspondent: 3:56 PM ET
  22 Comments
When you are at the end of your life, all you want is some peace of mind and enjoy the rest of the ride. So sad to read your post. My prayers to all the victims and I hope they didn't have time to know what hit them.

I'm glad Gene found his jacket..

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 4:16 PM ET
Rusty~
These personal tragedies are so heartbreaking.. To hear about a disaster is bad enough, but when you put faces on the victims it really rips my heart out. I am glad Gene found his jacket. I wish him the best. I will be watching tonight. Please let us know If the public can play a role to assist those affected by the storm. I sure many of us would like to help. Stay safe and God bless.~
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 4:26 PM ET
Gene, I am so glad you found your Michigan jacket, may it bring you comfort from this devestating time in your life. I am glad CNN is there to cover the story and use their professional judgements on what aspects to cover.
Posted By Anonymous susan saginaw, michigan : 4:28 PM ET
Dear ---
It's painful to see the elderly victims especially.
I hope that all of victims can recover not only their material things but also their painful mind soon.
--I'm not good at telling my thoughts and feelings in English.
If I had said impolite things,please forgive me.
sincerely.
Posted By Anonymous Mineka Takabayashi ,Nagano Japan : 7:06 PM ET
Gene I am so glad that you made it out alive and found your jacket and that you have family to go to.

My heart goes out to those families whose loved ones didn't make it.
Posted By Anonymous Jo Venice,FL : 7:11 PM ET
My dad, Ron who recently passed, loved playing pool with Gene and Ray and some of the other fellows...He would have been so devastated not only at the massive dammage to his beloved mobile home park, but to the devastation that Gene and so many others endured as well. Gene, God Bless you and keep you safe, as you spend the rest of your days near your daughter. She'll be so thankful to have you near. All our best, Cindy and family...
Posted By Anonymous Cindy Tyson , Orlando, FL : 7:40 PM ET
My grandmother, Bernice Marshall, was one of those killed in Lady Lake. In fact, I believe that she was the elderly woman mentioned in Rusty's blog based on what my parents described to me. They were able to reach the trailer park on foot this afternoon, and they said there is almost nothing left. I can still hardly believe it. My grandmother was a talented artist and organist. She had a big heart and a great sense of humor. It's her laugh that I will remember best. I love you, Grammy.
Posted By Anonymous Brian Marshall, Winston-Salem, NC : 8:21 PM ET
I know these people don't think that they're house is going to be the one that's in the tornado's path, but why, if you live in a hurricane/tornado-prone area, don't you have one of those battery-operated weather radios? How expensive can they be? Is a person's life worth the price of a weather radio?
Posted By Anonymous Steve - Peoria Ill. : 9:27 PM ET
My Heart is breaking over the extent of the dammage. I cant believe it. God bless you all.
Posted By Anonymous Allie Charleston SC : 9:58 PM ET
Gene,
So happy to hear that you are one of the survivors today. Did have to smile that you looking for your Michigan jacket that your daughter gave you.

Rusty,
Been watching your live reports throughout the day.

You touched upon a problem that most people are not aware of unless they live in FL. or have relatives there. The problem of the residents not having home insurance because many companies are no longer doing business in FL. My mother was cancelled last year without ever making a claim. She did find another company to cover her for this past year--must say--at quite a hefty increase but was notified that they will no longer do business in the state of FL. Some residents have found their premiums hiked so high that they can no longer afford insurance. Now, these poor people have another "natural disaster" which will only raise their premiums or drive more insurance companies out of the state.

Thank you and stay safe to all of the correspondents, crew members and weather anchors who have rushed to the area. You are our link to this catastrophic incident.
Posted By Anonymous Patricia, South Lyon, MI : 10:22 PM ET
Hi Rusty,
So often, it is the elderly that reside in the mobile home parks and unfortunately a disaster like this is hard to overcome at any age let alone someone in their golden years. I guess we just never know what Mother Nature will slap us with. My thoughts are with them, they will need all our help to rebuild. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 10:24 PM ET
um, according to the interview with the ladylake county's deputy or somebody

they said they got help from FEMA,

how come florida get the help that fast, when the new orleans got attack by the katrina and wait like a month!!

do you think it's fair?!
Posted By Anonymous Rach, martin, TN : 10:48 PM ET
Gene so happy to see you found your jacket. It is a shame insurance companies can get by with what they do. When is somebody going to put an end to how they treat those that feed them?
Good Luck Gene I guess the cold & snow isn't as bad when we see this devistation of those that suffered through this storm.
Posted By Anonymous Barbara Baylis Salem, New Hampshire : 10:49 PM ET
May the simple things in life be your comfort. I wish you the best as your life turns to a new chapter. god bless you and your family.
Posted By Anonymous LeAnne Kansas City, MO : 11:53 PM ET
Ummm an F-2/3 hitting a trailer park is national news? I lived in Oklahoma for a decade, I have seen devistation on all ends of the spectrum, including an F5 that hit my home in Moore, OK. This isn't national news. I feel bad for these people, but for the love of Christ, do I really have to sit through 2 hours of looking at destroyed trailer parks?
Posted By Anonymous J. Heally, Salina, KS : 1:37 AM ET
i have a very dear friends richard and tina spearing can any one tell me if they are ok ?...they live in paisley adress is 59 ivey lane any help would be appreciated.....
Posted By Anonymous rick three springs Pa. : 6:24 AM ET
I am trying to find out if someone who lives in Lady Lakes is OK. Can someone help with where to find out information about people who live there?
Posted By Anonymous Lee Ketcham, Gilbert, AZ : 9:31 AM ET
Isn't it funny how quickly we can be jerked into reality and all the "stuff" we tend to harbor as our prize possessions become nothing but mere things. The one thing that becomes obviously apparent is that life is the only thing that really matters. Things are things and life, well it is precious and suddenly it sinks in. Devastation touches everyone at one point in their life in one way or another but it is the lessons we take from that devastation that make us better people.
May God bless all those in Florida touched by the tornadoes and may they all know that all America is lifting a prayer for them.
Posted By Anonymous Zann Martin, Tennessee : 6:21 PM ET
Coming from Michigan, that story sent out a heart tug to Gene. I am glad he found the jacket.
Posted By Anonymous Rachel Geselman, Stanton, Michigan : 8:54 PM ET
This is one of those things that can happen at any time anywhere when weather of different polarities collide.
Why does anybody purchase manufactured homes? Especially in areas like Florida or the midwest or anywhere else that sometimes has tornados?
I know it's cost affordable but .....
You just never know about these things.....are their insurance rates going to triple like the people in South Florida??????
Posted By Anonymous Gloria LaRoche Coral Springs, FL : 10:12 PM ET
What happened was a tragedy. But the trailer-park-obliterated-by-high-winds stories have become a cliche', and it's time to stop allowing sales of "mobile homes" in storm prone areas such as Florida. What has anyone gained, if this so-called "affordable" housing disintegrates in a windstorm, destroying the "investment", a lifetime of personal belongings and in many cases, the very lives of the unfortunate occupants?

Ending the sales and subsequent placement of new trailers, and upgrading to stormworthy dwellings for those currently living in these paperboard deathtraps, subsidized if need be, would minimize, if not eliminate these sad stories.
Posted By Anonymous Robyn, Pittsville, MD : 10:28 AM ET
Well, here where I live we never experience tornados, earthquakes or anything harmful from nature all we have is really hot temperatures, but it is a tragity to these civilians but a blessing to those who survived and to Mr. Gene who eventhough he overcame this tornado he did noticed that he must move to a safer place to live and that's good that he found his daughter's gift. That shows that he really loves and takes to heart the little things in life.
Posted By Anonymous Xochitl, Laredo, TX : 10:31 AM ET
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