Florida Living Can Be Challenging

2007 MAY - Members, who move to Florida seeking a nice relaxed
retirement with year ‘round sunshine, have found that state to be anything but
relaxed.

A series of hurricanes and tornadoes in recent years have
former Massachusetts residents wondering just where in the Sunshine State is it
safe to plant their roots.

Most recently, tornado-bearing thunderstorms ripped through
Central Florida between 2 and 4 a.m. on Friday, February 2nd when most people
were asleep. Although the tornado cut a narrow zig-zag swath from Ocala to New
Smyrna on the east coast killing 20, we are focusing on one community – The
Villages.

The Villages, a rapidly growing town of 65,000 residents, is
actually a development of some 40 contiguous villages under one management. It
is self-contained, with a hospital, theaters, restaurants, shopping centers, a
central post office, 21 golf courses and its own police and fire departments.
Spread over parts of three counties, The Villages is still expanding and is
expected to have 100,000 residents within the next 8 years.

Currently, 78 of our members live in The Villages, plus hundreds
of other former Massachusetts residents. Red Porter, our Florida Vice President
and his wife Rejeanne, moved to The Villages, seven years ago, after having
previously lived in other parts of the state.

Members, living in The Villages, spoke of awakening to
booming thunder claps and drenching rains during the fateful night, but for the
most part, many were unaware of the devastation that took place within walking
distance of their homes.

All of The Villages are interconnected, each with their own
adopted name. The Village of Mallory Square is a new addition, about a year
old. Mass. State Police retiree Frank Mahoney and his wife Corrine had lived in
The Villages for three years, but had moved to a new house in Mallory Square
about a year ago. Unfortunately the tornado decided to touch down in Mallory
Square for a visit.

“We experienced one of the worst storms of our life. This
was about 18 seconds of fear, doing massive destruction… We heard the freight
train in the distance then right in our back yard, sounding like it was
throwing huge boulders around, hitting every part of our house,” reported Frank
Mahoney. “The angels were with us during those 18 seconds. It’s an experience
we will never forget.

“Our home was hit, resulting in about $35,000 damages, but
it was still livable. It was hard for us to see our friends just across the
street without homes to go to. But people helping people is the name of the
game down here. The morning of the tornado, the developer had crews, about 500
men, picking up all of the debris and covering houses still standing with
tarps. If you had to live through a tornado, The Villages is the place to be
living.”

Mahoney went on to say that the insurance company was
cooperative, the developers made sure there were plenty of licensed contractors
available and he had no trouble getting a roofer to do the entire roof. “The
Red Cross was here for several weeks, giving out meals three times a day to the
people whose facilities had been destroyed or disrupted. They have been wonderful,”
said Mahoney.

“Our prayers go out to all our neighbors, and also to the
ones in Lady Lake who lost their lives. We in The Villages did not have any
loss of life.”

Four people were killed in Lady Lake, a community that abuts
The Villages. The tornado next touched down in the small town of Paisley where
eleven people, most living in mobile homes, were killed. Eventually the twister
ended its journey on the Atlantic coast, leaving a trail of destruction in its
wake.

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