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Couple says tornado experience was hard, but harder for others

Couple says tornado experience was hard, but harder for others

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Couple says tornado experience was hard, but harder for others

Feb. 9, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0622}

NOTE: See related story, “Pastor says even in darkest hour, God is with us,” e-Review FUMNS
#0621 at:
An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

THE VILLAGES — Bob Wile fought back tears as he repeatedly gave thanks that he and his wife, Chris, were unharmed and their home suffered only structural damage during the storm that hit their neighborhood Feb. 2.

“The tears are not for me,” he said as he held his wife’s hand. “We are in good shape, but some others are not.”

Mike Snow (left), director of worship and arts at New Covenant United Methodist Church, talks with Bob and Chris Wile, members of the church  who survived the tornado that touched down in the area during the early morning hours Feb. 2. The couple moved to Sable Chase in The Villages five months ago from Cincinnati. Their home sustained glass and roof damage. They and their two cats, however, are fine. Photo by J.A. Buchholz. Photo #07-0520.

The Wiles, both members of New Covenant United Methodist Church in The Villages, recounted their tale several times to friends and church members after worship Sunday morning, just two days after a severe weather system that spawned several tornadoes had moved across Central Florida, killing 20 people.

Although the Wiles feel they came through their experience fairly well, they know many other residents were not as fortunate. Seven of the people killed lived in nearby Lady Lake; 13 lived in the Paisley and Lake Mack area near Volusia County. An estimated 300 to 500 homes in The Villages sustained damage, and the Lady Lake Church of God was destroyed, despite being built to withstand 150-mile per hour winds.

The Wiles said they remember being shaken awake early Feb. 2 as a tornado moved through their neighborhood.

“We both woke up at 3:15 a.m.,” Chris Wile said. “We heard this noise — we had no idea what it was — it was extremely loud. It really does sound like a train. Then we just hit the floor.”

Although they differ on the amount of time it lasted, he says 15 seconds tops and she says a minute, one thing they both agree on is they are both thankful they weren’t hurt.

“I didn’t know water could come out of electrical lights,” Chris said. “Bob had the frame of mind to turn off the furnace, electricity and water. Then we sat on a bench and prayed.”

The couple was still assessing damage to their home, which lost its windows and shingles from the roof, when neighbors arrived with brooms and buckets and began to sweep away debris and glass. Later a church member stopped by to check on them.

Bob Wile said the couple, and their two cats, are in good shape and staying at a local hotel for the time being. They have turned down countless invitations to stay with church members.

The Wiles moved to The Villages, a large retirement community with properties in at least two counties, Lake and Sumter, five months ago from Cincinnati. They were on their way to a five-week vacation in Clearwater and only stopped to check out the area after insistent pleas from friends. The couple purchased their home the second day of their vacation and don’t regret the decision.

“This is home,” Bob Wile said.

Soon after moving to the area, the two visited New Covenant United Methodist and knew instantly it was where they belonged.

“We knew the first Sunday,” Chris Wile said. “We never visited another church.”

That’s another decision they don’t regret. The care and concern the church has shown them has extended beyond the church to others who endured the storm.

Chuck McPherson leads the church’s disaster response team. He said he was out surveying the area as early as 7 a.m. Feb. 2.

McPherson, who retired to the area three years ago from Georgia, said utility lines may have been down after the storm, but the Holy Spirit was alive and well. He said the chef at the church offered to put together 100 hot meals for those who had gathered at a local community center and the church received countless calls from people offering to help.

“It’s still so early,” he said. “We will be debriefing soon. We have a plan in place for a hurricane so maybe we will look at enacting a plan for a tornado.”

How conference churches can help

•  Stay informed; needs change fast. Churches should contact the Florida Conference Storm Recovery Center at 800-282-8011, extension 149, e-mail or look for more information on the Florida Conference Web site, under the Disaster Response/Storm Recovery link on the left-hand menu bar, at

•  Gather supplies. Every church can be a part of the response, either by making health kits, packing baby diapers or collecting other supplies. A list of typical items needed is available under the Disaster Response/Storm Recovery link on the conference Web site.

•  Give generously. Churches may respond by giving to Florida Conference Advance #605, “Florida Tornadoes.” Checks should include “Advance #605” in the memo line and may be given at local United Methodist churches, made payable to the church, or mailed to Florida Conference Treasurer, c/o Florida Annual Conference, P.O. Box 850001, Orlando, FL 32885-0207, and made payable to Florida Conference Treasurer.

•  Volunteer. An application form for work teams is available under the Disaster Response/Storm Recovery link on the conference Web site. Storm recovery will match work team skills with opportunities. Work teams will be needed, but the effort needs to be coordinated by the conference’s storm recovery team. 

A bulletin insert suggesting ways to help may be downloaded from the conference Web site.

This article relates to Florida Conference Storm Recovery.

A portion of the information for this story was provided by a storm update in The Orlando Sentinel.
*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.