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Marion County officials are still estimating damages from tornado

Marion County officials are now estimating over $15 million in damages after an EF1 tornado ran through Dunnellon and Ocala on Saturday.

The national weather service reported that the tornado had winds up to 110 mph and was 200 yards wide and tracked over 25 miles through the county in over 28 minutes.

However, no deaths or injuries were reported after the tornado dissipated. The main area of destruction was on the State Road 200 and Interstate 75 corridors. Saddleworth Green apartments were the hardest hit residential area with over 160 displaced residents. These residents have been moved into neighboring communities and shelters.

Marion County Property Appraiser Jimmy Cowan believes that there is still unreported damage that hasn't been filed yet.

"Some people don't know to contact us or look at our website and be able to claim their damage or report their damage on that website," Cowan said. "We get some of the information from the fire department; we get some from the police department; we get some from the EOC. Then people will find out later from word of mouth, 'Hey, you need to get on the property appraiser's website and report your damage. We'll probably get some more. Probably even this week and next week for sure, and maybe even after that."

The county has also declared a local state of emergency which allows the county to be reimbursed from the state or federal government for debris removal.

County Commissioner Carl Zalak knows that there is still a lot more work ahead, especially with the cleanup.

"We're hoping to be done with them in about a week, maybe two weeks at the most," Zalak said. "We have significant damage in the subdivision of El Dorado, and from a cleanup perspective, the City of Ocala will end up taking care of their cleanup, and then we'll help those unincorporated areas of Marion County. We don't expect that to be more than a week, maybe a two-week operation at most."

Zalak believes it was the response of the community that has kept morale at an all-time high.

"We practice these things; we prepare for these things," he said. "A huge shoutout to Preston Bolin and our emergency management and of course our Sheriff Billy Woods for making a difference and getting out there quick and also our Chief of Fire James Banta. These guys all did a great job, even our folks at the county engineers' office and our road crews. Everyone was out really trying to make sure people were safe. I'm just really proud of our community and the way we step up. I'm thankful to be a Marion County citizen."

He said Marion County will continue to secure the proper funding from the state that's needed for residents to return to their normal lives.

Reagan is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.