Rescuers searched the ruins Tuesday hoping to find at least six people still missing a day after a band of monster tornadoes killed at least 38, leaving a deadlier swath of destruction than Hurricane Andrew.
"I am an optimist, but right now, we're asking the dogs to look for those who are deceased," fire Capt. David Costello said as his search dogs sniffed through a trailer twisted around a tree at Ponderosa Park Campground.Entire neighborhoods in central Florida were turned into heaps of wood, twisted metal and broken glass by winds of up to 260 mph. More than 250 people were injured, dusk-to-dawn curfews were in place, and federal aid was on its way.
The storm's fury struck hard for those who retired to Florida or snowbirds who come south for the winter, living in mobile homes or recreational vehicles.
Josephine Wolfe and her husband escaped unharmed, but her mobile home did not. She rummaged through the scraps Monday before finally finding her medicine and her wallet containing $4 in bingo winnings.
"It's all gone," cried Wolfe, who moved from Dayton, Ohio, in 1983. "This was our whole life. I'm 73 years old and you can't start over at 73. What good is it? You work so hard and now there's nothing. I wish it would've killed me."
Rescuers said tracking down survivors is difficult because so many people live here only part-time, and records were scattered by the storm.
"We had to identify the bodies of close friends," said Maria Quadros, manager of the Ponderosa park, where at least 10 people died. "Many people in this park are neighbors up north. They've been coming to this park for 25 years. When you're searching and you find that one you didn't want to find deceased, it breaks you apart."
The Ponderosa was unusually full because spring training for baseball's Houston Astros was just getting under way at the stadium next door. The stadium was undamaged, as were Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Florida and other top tourist attractions.
But 14 counties were granted federal disaster assistance. President Clinton said he would survey the destruction Wednesday.