CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (WFLA) — Anthony Gannon could smell the insulation. It had a particular aroma that has stuck with him over the last two days. He could smell it as it gently wafted down onto him, as he curled up next to his couch, waiting for the train-like roar to end. For Gannon, that’s the scent of a tornado.
“I got scared,” Gannon recalled. “It’s the scaredest I’ve ever been in my life, and I work in a prison.”
The Crystal River homeowner, his wife and his son were all asleep when the tornado warnings blared from their phones. He and his wife stumbled out of bed and checked outside. It seemed fine. Gannon said he was about to fall back asleep when the roar grew louder. He jumped into action.
“I was standing here, right here,” Gannon recounted as he stood in his living room. “Trying to get the dogs into the tub, when the roof lifted off.”
His wife and son had gone into the bathroom already, so Gannon got behind his couch and felt the ceiling fall on him.
“It was just wild, it was a scary 20 seconds,” Gannon said. “And I’ll tell anybody going forward, ‘You get that alarm on your phone, take it serious.’ Because it saved our life.”
He said his family didn’t go back to sleep that night, instead waiting for the sun to rise to assess the damage. It was extensive. His house has no roof, windows are broken and belongings are ruined.
And this comes after he said Hurricane Idalia’s waters surged through the house in August.
“I’ll deal with flooding,” Gannon explained. “You can flood this and you can flood this 12 feet. But I don’t ever want to deal with a tornado again.”
The National Weather Service measured Thursday’s early morning tornado at EF-2, with 125 mile per hour peak winds, running for more than five-and-a-half miles and measuring around three football fields wide.
But as the sun rose on Thursday, Gannon soon found out he wouldn’t be alone in the clean up.
“I knew they needed help,” said Ed Nepton. “This isn’t my first tornado I’ve been through. It’s a lot, I know it’s overwhelming, and I just wanted to be here for them.”
Nepton and Gannon said they work together at a prison, and a group of coworkers arrived at Gannon’s house to help him.
“I was sad for them, because they just cannot catch a break,” Nepton said. “They were flooded a month with the hurricane storm surge, and now this.”
The team’s main focus has been clearing out anything that can be salvaged, from clothes to cookware.
“I hope that if the day ever comes when I need it,” Nepton said. “I know they’ll be there for me.”
But right now, Nepton said he’ll help Gannon with the next plans — rebuilding.
“I will die in this house,” Gannon said with a smile. “I almost died yesterday in this house. But it wasn’t. But at some point, I will die here. I’ll never leave here.”