After storm, recovery takes work
Katie Clausen doesn't like the word "condemned." To her, it's got a negative connotation. "Uninhabitable" doesn't really sound any better.
Regardless, both words apply when it comes to describing the home she shares with boyfriend Kevin Lindquist. One month after a tornado shoved a tree through their living room wall, ripped more than half of the roof off and lifted the garage off its foundation, Clausen and Lindquist still can't stay in their home.
"We can still go in there and get things," Clausen said Monday, one month after the Aug. 13 tornado that damaged 124 homes in the central part of the community. "But it's so creepy going in there. It stinks. There's no carpet in the upstairs. They took out some walls. The ceiling's gone.
"A spider made its home in our kitchen sink. That just grossed me out," she added.
That's how life has been for Clausen. The night of the tornado, she and Lindquist were asleep in their upstairs bedroom. With the wind howling and threatening to pull the window-unit air conditioner out, the pair grabbed their pets and headed for the basement. They emerged later to find water cascading into their home through the ceiling and a tree branch poking through their living room wall.
Farmington building official Ken Lewis condemned 13 homes following the E-1 force tornado. Clausen's home was among those deemed unfit for habitation. That left them looking for an alternate residence until repair work is complete.
The first couple of weeks, they stayed with a friend who lives on Highway 3. However, the friend was allergic to cats, and Clausen and Lindquist have two. They tried to keep their stay short, but encountered some more frustration when their insurance company hedged on helping the couple find a temporary home.
These days, Clausen and Lindquist are staying in a townhome by the police department, not all that far from their own home. They can come and go from their house and stop by to pick up items whenever they need or want to. One night, Clausen went for a jog through the neighborhood, past some of the other homes that were hit by the tornado. It rocked her quite a bit.
"Seeing all those houses, I just got the chills," she said. "I still think I'm a little traumatized. I don't think I'll ever be the same."
When ordinary people go through life, they learn how to do certain things, but never really give thought to other things -- like cleaning up after a tornado, for instance. That's something Clausen and Lindquist are learning all on their own.
Lindquist's father came down the day of the tornado and helped put up a patch on the living room wall, and they were able to get a tarp up on their roof that same day. A significant amount of debris has been thrown away so far -- wet carpet and so on -- but actual repair work to the home didn't start until Tuesday of this week.
"It's taken a month to get everything in order," Clausen said. "We've never been through this so we didn't know what we were supposed to do."
For the most part, Clausen is pleased with the service and cooperation they have received from their insurance company, though there was some breakdown in communication as to the whereabouts of a check. That, and that the insurance company doesn't want to replace all of the home's siding.
"They're trying to match the siding. The siding is from 1992, and they haven't been able to find a match for it. I wish they'd just give up and do the whole thing," Clausen said. Three of the four exterior walls have siding that needs to be replaced.
There are other things Clausen has learned, too -- like maybe she should have raked a little more before mowing the lawn for the first time. That was a bad idea, she said, because it kicked up a lot of debris left in the yard.
But the experience hasn't been all bad. They've met a lot more people in their neighborhood, and everyone around them seems to understand the trials and tribulations because they're all experiencing them in one way or another. The experience has kind of brought them all closer together, she said.
"Every day, there's something new. It's just one long learning experience," she said. "I would have never imagined this would happen. I don't know. I'm still kind of speechless. Everything will be okay in the end. It's just a matter of getting there.
"I just tell myself, it could be worse. It could be so much worse."