Like much of Lake County, Groveland is known for its picturesque lakes. But nature took a deadlier turn on Jan. 25 when a storm packing heavy winds damaged 30 homes in the city's downtown neighborhood.
GROVELAND –When storms came through Central Florida on Jan. 25, for most residents it meant heavy rain, strong winds, and slow, messy traffic on the highways. Some of the less fortunate lost power.
But for 30 homeowners in the town of Groveland, it turned out to be much worse.
The fast moving storm, packing winds of up to 70 miles per hour, proved particularly destructive on a 1.5 mile stretch of the town that included Ashley Street, Catherine Lane and Stina Avenue. The heavy winds torn up some roofs and toppled trees, forcing the American Red Cross Mid-Florida Region to find local hotels to put up three families whose homes were destroyed.
“There’s a few streets that got hit, but the major damage was done on Ashley Street,” said Michael Tart. “The majority of the damage was done there, on the street right behind the Ace Hardware store. It’s a little dead end street, right in downtown, and there’s around $600,000 worth of damage that’s been estimated. That could be anything from some shingles blown off to the house being destroyed.”
Tart is the executive director LASER, or the Lake And Sumter Emergency Recovery program. As the residents of Ashley Street struggle to cope with the damage done to their homes, LASER is calling on the general public to assist them. The agency is asking for donations from the community for families who sustained damage to their homes during the Jan. 25 storm.
LASER is a not-for-profit agency based in Eustis, and partners with the United Way of Lake & Sumter Counties to help raise money. One hundred percent of funds received will go toward facilitating the repair and rebuilding of damaged homes.
“We are a 501c agency, designated by the county,” Tart said. “During a declared disaster, we can apply to receive funds to help people who are uninsured or underinsured – the elderly, disabled, single parents, some type of special need. We do not have any funds at this time, so we have solicited the public for donations. There are some families down there that have seen their homes destroyed by this storm, and we want them to be able to put their lives back together as it was before the storm.”
Because the Jan. 25 storm wasn’t a declared disaster at the state or federal level, no monetary assistance is available for these families. Some of them, he added, didn’t have homeowners insurance.
“Our goal is to help these residents get back on their feet, and the only way we can do this is through the help of the community,” he said.
To make a donation, people can send a check made payable to Lake And Sumter Emergency Recovery, Inc. (LASER) to 27 E. Pinehurst Blvd. Suite B, Eustis, FL 32726. Another option is to stop by any Lake County SunTrust branch and drop off a check made payable to United Way of Lake & Sumter Counties Disaster Account.
“The bad part about it is you could have insurance, but just not have enough insurance to cover it if you’re affected,” he said. “If you don’t have enough coverage on your home, it may not be a declared disaster, but it’s still a disaster to you and your family.”
Lake County has been hard hit by storms and natural disasters in the past seven years. In September 2004, Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne struck the region. In February 2007, a tornado struck northern Lake County, causing considerable damage to some communities there. In September 2009 a small tornado went through downtown Eustis, then this recent storm hit Groveland.
“We‘ve not had much luck with natural disasters,” Tart said.
The Lake County commissioners created LASER shortly after the 2004 hurricanes to strengthen recovery efforts from any future disasters in Lake and Sumter counties.
For more information about LASER, log on to
“They are welcome to visit our Web site, or they can call us on our phone number at 352-385-2525 if they want to sign up for some volunteer opportunities,” Tart said. “If we have something happen in the future, that volunteer work could be putting tarps on roofs, or helping skilled labor repair homes, or cleaning debris out of yards. The other thing is we also facilitate the Medical Reserve Corp and we’ll be looking for volunteers for that. We have a lot of volunteer activities.”

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