Rochester neighborhood slow to rebound from June tornadoby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — For the last five weeks, Paul Maass and his wife Carol McCaleb have started their day at the breakfast buffet of the Marriott Extended Stay hotel in Rochester.
They're among 21 families who had to move out of their homes after a tornado ripped through their Rochester neighborhood last month. The tornado blew out the front window of their unit causing water and roof damage. The couple says reconstruction has been slow - and frustrating.
"I'd like to get back into my house," said Maass, 74, who's grown tired of their temporary quarters. "It's up and down the elevator. It's not the best living."
Even though the couple's insurance company is paying for their hotel stay, McCaleb, 75, said she's looking forward to returning to her home. But she knows that may not happen for a while.
"With so many to repair, the contractor seems a little evasive," she said. "But I understand why because he has so many to repair. It's hard to put a timeline on it."
Less than a mile away, a 15-member crew with Rochester-based Bob's Construction Company was busy Friday morning removing shingles from the roof of another house. Around this townhome community, several roofs have blue tarps on them. Sheets of plywood cover some of the windows.
Crews didn't start major repairs on the units until this week - and rain kept them from working a couple of days.
Repairs started off slow because crews had to wait for the insurance company to inspect all 128 units, said John Bandy, the project's foreman. It often takes longer for insurance companies to process a claim this size, compared to one from a single-family home.
"They had to do all their paperwork. They had to go through every unit, inspect everything for mold, walls shifting," Bandy said. "There was a lot of paper work for the insurance company to go through and it took some time."
All but three of the 38 buildings in this community sustained some damage, although most of that was minor. Still, Bandy said more than half of the homes will need to be re-roofed. And five will be completely demolished and rebuilt.
"Some units have the garage totally ripped off," he said. "Some have sheeting blown up and holes in the roof from flying debris. [There's] a lot of siding holes. A lot of debris was flying."
It will cost about $2 million to repair or rebuild the damaged units, Meadowbrook Townhomes Association president Lola Seehusen said. Of that, the association has already received $1.4 million from its insurance company.
Seehusen understands her neighbors' frustrations and hopes everyone will be patient with the rebuilding process.
"They don't like being out of their homes and I think it's maybe sometimes because they're older people," she said. "It's harder for them to make the transition, but the majority of them are very easy to work with."
Inside his completely gutted townhome, Bruce Pervin said the tornado recovery has been a big inconvenience. He's living in a local motel since water continues to seep into the living room of his home. Most of his belongings are crammed into his two-car garage, which the tornado did not damage.
But Pervin, 57, knows that what happened in Rochester was minor compared to the tornado damage in Wadena and areas of Freeborn County.
"Yes, we got hit by a tornado and you see a few that are totally torn down," he said. "The others, the roofs are gone, the windows are gone. I've seen towns where the whole town is wiped out."
The association is planning a meeting next week with homeowners and the insurance company. Official say work is expected to be completed by the end of the fall, when everyone will be able to move back home.