2 months after tornadoes, Kokomo still working to rebuild

(WISH Photo)

KOKOMO, Ind (WISH) — Monday marks two months since tornadoes hit the city of Kokomo. But for many people there, the storm has just begun.

As you drive through Kokomo, you won’t find debris. But the rebuilding hasn’t really started. Homes are still boarded up and tarps cover roofs. City officials say that’s typical as many are still negotiating with their insurance companies.

There’s no shortage of shattered windows and piles of debris at the Park Place Apartments. But there is a shortage of people. The homes are still unlivable. Not far away, the tornado leveled Starbucks. On Friday, there was no Starbucks building, just a fence blocking off the area. Beyond the fence, homes at the Cedar Crest neighborhood also need repairs.

“I just hope the outside gets fixed before the snow starts flying,” laughed Joy Smith.

Her neighbor, Sharon Lee, added, “The outside is damaged. We don’t have that fixed yet. I had a patio out back. That was gone, and a shed was damaged.”

But things are moving forwards, according to Kokomo Deputy Mayor David Tharp. Tharp says the storm damaged more than 1,000 properties. However, the city has already issued 740 rebuilding permits. It’s a sign of progress, he says.

“I think we are rapidly approaching a new normal, particularly as more people finish negotiations with their insurance companies. There is some utility work in some of these neighborhoods that the gas company and utilities are going to while a few homes are down,” Tharp said.

More than a few homes are down at Cedar Crest. Some homes are damaged; others are still standing but destroyed. There is one concrete slab where a home once stood. But, one thing this community has in common: gratitude.

“I can just thank the Lord that the fact that people didn’t lose their lives,” Lee said.

Neighbors gave kudos to the hundreds of volunteers who spent days and weeks after the tornadoes helping clean up.

Tharp says Park Place Apartments will reopen. They are working to reopen one building at a time. Tharp says the apartment complex is still negotiating with their insurance company.