ND town cleaning up from July twister

Following an early July tornado, residents and volunteers begin to look at long-term recovery.

BY MONICA OLIVAS | DICKINSON, ND | August 12, 2009



"There is still lots of damage. There are houses where a couple of walls are up, but nothing else is in between"

—Rev. Valerie Reinhiller, The United Methodist Church Dakotas Conference


More than a month later, residents here are still cleaning up the damage from a tornado that struck the town July 8.

Shortly after the disaster, “the streets were littered with everything you can think of, power lines were down,” said the Rev. Valerie Reinhiller, coordinator for the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church in western North Dakota.

More than 450 structures were damaged. Twenty-three of those were completely destroyed. Brent Pringle, Emergency Manager for Stark County said, some of the homes were multi-family homes, so they are not sure how many families may be without housing. All of those families have been placed in temporary housing or are staying with family and friends.

The National Weather Service reported that this tornado brought 150 mile per hour winds and was classified a F3. Amazingly, only minor injuries were reported. Two people were hurt during the tornado and two people during the initial clean up.

Six hundred volunteers showed up to help with clean up in the days following the tornado.

“It was neighbors helping neighbors,” Pringle said, “the response was fantastic.”

Now residents continue to work on cleaning up and rebuilding. And they are getting a lot of help. Many local and national agencies are stepping in to provide support. Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) are among the faith-based disaster organizations responding with support.

Church and community groups have also united to form the Resources Agencies Flood Team or RAFT. Formed after the Red River flood of 1997, RAFT continues to step in after disasters in the area.

Right now the emphasis is on clean up, but Reinhiller says long term plans focus on rebuilding and helping families with unmet needs.

“There is still lots of damage. There are houses where a couple of walls are up, but nothing else is in between,” Reinhiller said.

The Rev. Wade Schemmel, with the United Church of Christ and North Dakota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), said most of the debris has been picked up. But, there is still a lot of structural damage.

Some homes were able to withstand or miss major damage while others were destroyed. In one cul-de-sac of four homes, three of them were completely ripped apart and one had little structural damage.

“A lot of it is just beginning. We are focused on long term recovery,” Schemmel said.


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