Tornado Reconstruction Forging Ahead

Terror rises from deep in your gut when the sky turns dark and cold and the sirens blare. The signal that a tornado touched down in our city sends us to our radios and televisions to see when and where the destruction will strike.

On Tuesday, February 10th, the alarms sounded, signaling the arrival of a rare February twister bearing down on northwest Edmond. For Edmond residents, seeing news stations broadcast debris clouds and rain-wrapped funnels touching down at Kelly, Santa Fe, Covell, and Danforth was too close for comfort. These are the familiar streets where we shop for groceries and send our kids to school – and they were squarely in the tornado’s path.

 

Over two hundred structures in the Edmond area were damaged. Subdivisions like Oak Tree had at least six homes that were completely demolished and Mother Nature turned its neighboring Oak Tree Golf Course into a pile of trees. The twister ripped through Sorghum Mills Estates and Coffee Creek, while businesses along Waterloo Road were flattened.

 

With all the extensive destruction in Edmond, the community came together in the aftermath to help those in need. The Red Cross set up shelters across the city, church groups came to the affected areas with volunteers for cleanup, chainsaw crews came to neighborhoods to remove downed trees and businesses like Earl’s Rib Palace stepped in to provide lunch for the volunteers. Six weeks later, the debris is gone, but some families and business are still rebuilding.

 

Carol Grieb’s family completely altered their life after the tornado blasted their home in Sorghum Mills Estates. Not only did they lose their home, but Carol ran her business out of their home.

 

Overwhelmed with the amount of damage, the Griebs didn’t have to worry for long. That weekend volunteers from
Lifechurch.tv and the youth group of Memorial Road Church of Christ came to Sorghum Mills Estates and helped the family. Their friends and family in the community also made sure that they had a place to go. “We went and stayed with my folks for about a week and the day after it happened I had a friend that came out whose sister-in-law here had a rental property come open that same week,” said grieb. “I actually went and looked at it Wednesday and we were in it by the next week. We were really lucky.”

 

Fortunate that their rent house is not too far from Sorghum Mills Estates, the family is getting back to how life was before that black Tuesday afternoon. Carol is continuing business from her new home location in Park Lane Estates and the family is planning on returning to their home after rebuilding on the same property. If things continue to go according to plan they hope to be living among their neighbors in six to eight months.

 

Although the Grieb’s home was one of the hardest hit in the subdivision, everyone in the neighborhood who suffered damages is working on returning Sorghum Mills Estates to the community it was before. “We have great neighbors and we love that area,” said Grieb. “We actually miss our neighbors right now and we’re one of the only families not living over there. A lot of the neighbors have tarps on their roofs and are still dealing with insurance and trying to get repairs done, but I think everybody is pretty much going to rebuild and stay in the area.”

 

Not only are families like the Griebs making plans to rebuild in the community, but some of the business owners that were hit hardest are trying to recover as well. On West Waterloo Rd. businesses like Lil Bit A Shine, Custom Design Cabinets, and Four Seasons Paintless Dent Removal were completely demolished by the twister. All that’s left of their building is a blank concrete slab.

 

Michael Jerry, owner of Four Seasons Paintless Dent Removal, left only a few minutes before the tornado wiped out half the complex he was subleasing. The 60’ x 40’ structure could hold six cars comfortably plus it had a full-size office and full-sized bathroom. Plans are in the works to rebuild the structure exactly as it had been before, but it will take another 60 to 90 days for the building to be completed before tenants can move back in.

 

With a mass of rubble that had to be sifted to see what was salvageable, the community stepped in once again to help the businesses get back on their feet. Jerry’s neighbor offered space in his shop as a temporary location and ten days after the storm Jerry had all the necessary tools and space to be able to work. “I can honestly say it was a group effort from a number of friends and neighbors who did their best help to pick up the pieces,” said Jerry. “Some people rented tractors, some people lent their muscle, and other neighbors would bring coffee or doughnuts or sandwiches. It’s just overwhelming to think about how much help I got. I’m in the hail business so there’s no time to cry over spilled milk, lost tools, or the fact that our landmark enterprise is gone. We’ve got to get up and keep working because the weather doesn’t wait.”

 

Jerry has begun work in his temporary shop just miles from where the original Four Seasons Temporary Paintless Dent Removal was located. At 411 West Waterloo Road, he’s open for business and fully staffed to meet the needs of all hail damage repairs. Jerry and Lil Bit A Shine owner, Darryl Banks, continue their work despite what they’ve lost and plan on staying for many years to come. “We all live within a couple of miles from here and have invested in this community and have made a formal commitment to stay albeit we’ve suffered a catastrophe,” said Jerry. “We haven’t decided to move or go anywhere, we’re just trucking along like we have before.”

 

The continued support of the Edmond community for those residents and business who were affected in the destructive storm has allowed them to persevere through the trying weeks of reconstruction. But this is what it means to live in a true community. It’s what it means to live in Edmond.

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