Wednesday, November 27th, 2019

Tornado recovery continues

By Tom Stankard

Charlie Hileman of Bruns Avenue in Celina stands inside the framing of his home. . .

CELINA - It has been a frustrating road toward recovery for Lori Heppeard Robbins and her family since the Memorial Day tornado severely damaged their home.   
"Six months is a long time to be displaced," she said, becoming emotional as she recalled the tornado's sweeping through the home.
In less than 20 seconds, the twister extensively damaged the house, vehicles, barns, fencing, trees and other property. They since have been living at a cottage in Montezuma.
"You don't think when you come out of the basement and see the devastation that you're going to be out of your home that long," Heppeard Robbins said.
Their home in the 7200 block of Hellwarth Road is the last on their block to be repaired, most likely because their insurance didn't kick in more quickly, she pointed out.
They hope to move back in before Christmas as contractors are expected to begin laying carpet this week, but Heppeard Robbins said she is a little skeptical.
"It has been a long journey. I want my home back," she added.
Although she is anxious to return home, Heppeard Robbins said she understands local contractors have been busy responding to the roughly 40 homeowners who either lost their homes completely or whose homes were severely damaged.
Jeff Larmore, vice president and owner of Lake Contracting in Celina, said his crews have been doing the best they can to keep up with the demand and are working to get homes sealed up before winter arrives.
"Everybody has been stretched thin, so everybody has to help out," he said.     As they respond to tornado victims, he said their existing clients have been understanding and agreed to postpone their needed housework until the tornado damage is repaired.
Rebuilding homes torn apart by the twister has been fulfilling for fellow contractor Joe Schlueter, owner of 21st Century Kitchens of Celina.
"It's heart wrenching, and I want to help get them back in their home," he added. "Some have never been through this and I want to lead them along the way."
Resident Charles Hileman was taking pictures on Tuesday afternoon of contractors building his new home after the twister destroyed the previous one in the 500 block of Bruns Avenue.
Watching contractors pour concrete for the driveway, he recalled "it took only 10 seconds to take (my home) down, but it's going to take six months to put it back up."
Contractors have installed the framework of his new home and he hopes the roof will be finished before winter so interior work can be completed.
Hileman said he is glad he and his wife, Mary Jane, heeded the tornado warning and went into the basement.
"Don't hesitate. We were there for a minute, then kaboom," he said, adding the twister tore off the roof over the living room and kitchen and completely destroyed the garage.
Complete strangers turned up the next morning to help remove debris at his home as well as Jessica Lane resident Kelly Harbaum's property.
"There were hundreds of people who helped out," she said. "It's a wonderful community."
Heppeard Robbins said she had been afraid of storms, but the Memorial Day tornado took her fear to a whole new level.
"(I'm) petrified of storms. When they start talking about storms on the news, I get scared," she said
The tornado has been a hardship for many people, but Mayor Jeff Hazel said "we are going to get through this."
"The community has proved they won't be held back by a disaster," he added.
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