Family tell of hurricane nightmare

By Danielle NuttallA COUPLE who left East Anglia to begin a new life in Florida have spoken of their heartache after Hurricane Charley caused £30,000 of damage to their sunshine home.

By Danielle Nuttall

A COUPLE who left East Anglia to begin a new life in Florida have spoken of their heartache after Hurricane Charley caused £30,000 of damage to their sunshine home.

Chris and Daryl White left Halesworth 12 years ago to move to the picturesque town of Port Charlotte on the west coast of America's Sunshine State.

The couple knew only too well the threat of storm damage to their home and had identified the bathroom as a "panic room" in the event of an emergency because it was the most central room in the house.

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But despite their awareness, they could not have prepared themselves for the devastation about to be caused as 145mph Hurricane Charley ravaged their four-bedroom dream home on Sunday.

Mother-of-four Mrs White said: "We made it, thank God, but it was the most terrifying experience of my life.

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"We've lost so much. The house is a mess, half the roof has gone, all my clothes are ruined, we've got no water or electricity, but thankfully my family is safe.

"It could easily have been worse - I shudder to think what might have been."

Mrs White, a home help, said she had spent the longest hours of her life cowering in her panic room with her family, praying for the storm to subside.

She was at home with her husband Daryl, a social worker, 12-year-old son Kristopher, one of her twin sons, Stuart, 23, and daughter, Kerry, 27, when the storm struck.

"I had prepared the panic room, but because we were told the hurricane was only a force one, we didn't really think we would need it," she said.

"But as the morning went on the storm grew and grew, it became a two then a three and when it got to a four we knew we could be in trouble. We just sat there waiting and wondering what was going to happen.

"Then we heard it. There was an almighty crash and the electricity went out. That was when we got scared. We have storms all the time, but this was like something I had never heard before."

Mrs White added: "That was when we knew it was time to get into the panic room. We put our four dogs in first then we all went in and huddled together.

"It went very dark and then there was another almighty clap of thunder and we heard a tremendous roar. It was like a freight train coming straight at us.

"The windows blew in, the whole house shuddered and then we heard bits of our roof being ripped away. Water started gushing through the light sockets overhead and that was the most frightening thing in the world."

When the family emerged from the panic room two hours later, they discovered half of their roof tiles had gone, windows had been shattered and furniture had been strewn across the house.

"I just wanted to cry. My beautiful house was a mess. The garden my husband had spent years getting just right was unrecogniseable," said Mrs White, who has been in contact with relatives in Suffolk to let them know the family is safe.

"Most of our plants had simply been ripped up and swept away. Bits of roof from God knows where were lying everywhere. It was literally like a bomb had hit this place."

At least 13 people have already been confirmed dead in the storms, but the search for bodies continues and it is feared the final death toll could be higher.

Dozens of trailer homes have been completely destroyed and thousands of people have been left homeless or without power and water.

However, the danger is not over with the fourth and fifth named storms of the Atlantic hurricane on their way.

Tropical Storm Danielle developed into a hurricane on Saturday, although it is several days from land, while Tropical Storm Earl, with winds of 40 mph, is out at sea 225 miles south-east of Barbados, prompting warnings on islands in the south-eastern Caribbean Sea.

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