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Storm Stories - Waiting for Answers

Posted: 10/14/2022

Author: Julie

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As the weather in Douglas County quickly cools, residents impacted by the May tornadoes and high wind events are quickly wondering when, or if, their repairs will be completed this fall.

Julie Rice is one of them. She owns a historic property on one of the beautiful lakes in western Douglas County.  On May 12 she had family visiting for a belated Mother’s Day celebration.  It was a particularly warm spring day and they were all outside when they started to hear distant rumbles of thunder and saw clouds moving in from the west.  Their home is on the north side of the lake and by the time she got to the second floor to shut windows, the wind was so strong that the curtains were blowing up at a 90 degree angle.  She looked outside and saw a 6 foot wall of water coming across the lake about to hit their beach and level yard.  The power went out and she hustled her mother into the basement while other family members took shelter in the cabin next door.  As soon as the wind subsided she went upstairs to see their beloved century old Red Elm toppled.  It crushed a vehicle and boat and did significant damage to both buildings.  The tree was completely uprooted and tore up the septic system line.  She then realized that the roof was gone – much of it lying in the neighbor’s yard.  She quickly ran upstairs to find water pouring through light fixtures, outlets, switch plates and ductwork soffits.

Because of the age, size and condition of the property when purchased in 2016, replacement cost coverage was not available so any reimbursement they receive is based on “actual cash value” meaning coverage is depreciated based on age and condition.

Nearly five months after the storm, she is still wondering what their out-of-pocket expenses will be. Their home is stripped of flooring, ceiling sheetrock and insulation so it’s open to the rafters and roof deck above. The roof has been replaced but three months without one resulted in additional water damage, both interior and exterior.  She is finding it difficult to find contractors available to even give them quotes for the remaining work to be done.

The insurance adjuster assigned to their claim retired back in July and the new one isn’t familiar with the case, leaving many questions and concerns. “We’ll likely have something of a battle on our hands in the event the insurance company only wants to patch areas of siding leaving us with a hodgepodge of mismatched siding styles and colors,” Julie said. “I’m trying not to worry too much about it until we get an actual proposal from the adjuster.  Regardless, we know we’ll have to come up with tens of thousands of dollars after having put all our cash into the purchase and remodel in 2016.”

Douglas County has formed a Long Term Recovery Group which is working to assist residents like Rice. The group will address a number of issues, including: the gaps left after insurance, and how to raise funds to help residents fill those gaps. Members will also work to learn whether all storm impacted residents have adequate temporary housing to get through the winter months.  The group is working on a strategy that includes a community meal and gathering at Calvary Lutheran Church in Alexandria on Tuesday, October 18 at 6 p.m. for all storm impacted residents. This will provide an opportunity to share stories, struggles and successes. It will also begin an effort to provide stress and anxiety reduction through support meetings either in person or on Zoom in the coming months. 

The Alexandria Area Response Fund is ready to take donations that are distributed directly to residents. Click on the link and select Alexandria Response Fund


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