The gigantic mess left behind by Sunday’s tornado is disappearing in a hurry. The downed trees are gone and so is the rubble from the damaged houses. Power has been restored and Sycamore and the intersecting streets are clear. “It looks a lot different than it did Sunday,” said Rod Foster as he took a break from putting a new roof on a house on Sycamore Street.
Even city officials who have been involved in the cleanup effort are impressed with the way the neighborhood is bouncing back. “Isn’t it amazing?” asked Mayor Joe Wellman. “When I walked down there on Sunday I thought it would be a week before we even got the power back on.”
City electrical crews with help from Jasper, Crawfordsville, and Huntingburg now have restored electricity to all of the city. “That was our first priority,” said Wellman. “If anyone doesn’t have power now, they should contact the utilities office.”
Not only is the electricity back in place but nearly all of the rubble is gone. A combination of volunteers, friends, city and county crews have almost 90 percent of the debris removed. One group pitching in was the Road Crew from the Daviess County Jail. “We have seven guys on the crew today, and there were 10 yesterday,” said Road Crew Supervisor Rick Robinson. “We’re working closely with Street Superintendent Ernie Evans. He tells us what he needs and we try to do it.”
“We have tried to coordinate the volunteer efforts, and get people where they are needed,” said Wellman. “We intend to keep the volunteer center open through Friday.”
The quick work on the cleanup has impressed people in the neighborhood. Diana Skomp’s daycare Kids Konnection at 209 Oak Street had roof and window damage and its playground along Sycamore Street was destroyed. “We had some volunteers in here from Tennessee helping and they were amazed with the recovery, and I am too,” said Skomp.
“I thought there would be stuff laying around forever. We’ve seen high school kids down here digging in. It’s wonderful to live in a community that works together.”
Skomp’s day care is closed while she tries to get it repaired. “I haven’t seen my insurance guy yet, but my contractor is already busy working on the building,” she said. “I think we ought to be able to reopen the Monday after Thanksgiving.”
One thing the massive and quick response has created is a sense of hope that the neighborhood will return to normal sooner than later.
“These people have done a marvelous job of getting things at least half-way back to normal,” said Skomp. “I think in a month people will feel a lot closer to normal again.”
The city still is taking efforts to keep the momentum moving on the recovery. “We are going to keep the streets closed in the area during the day so that our volunteers can continue to work,” said Wellman. “We just want people to avoid driving through there so that we can keep our volunteers safe.”
Even with the rubble and debris gone there are still plenty of reminders in the neighborhood of the tornado. Houses have tarps on their roofs and several appear so badly damaged that they will most likely have to be demolished. “It’s going to be up to the individual home and business owners on what they are going to do with those properties and how quickly they take action,” said Wellman.
The recovery effort now looks like it will be wrapped up in a matter of days instead of weeks. “It has just been humbling to see the out pouring of volunteers and business donations, and help from church groups,” said Wellman. “Everybody pitches in to help.”
“This just shows that we live in a great place,” said Skomp.