Thursday, April 15, 1999

Residents begin planning new homes

It's time to look ahead, not back

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Short-sleeved in the late-morning sun Wednesday, Wanda Hatfield stood where her garage used to and sorted through two dozen boxes of books. Those worth saving were running 50-50 with books that couldn't be saved.

        Among those to hang on to was the Sesame Street book The House That Biff Built.

        “I'm going to make sure I show it to the contractor, so he knows what he's doing,” said Mrs. Hatfield, who lived with her husband, Eric, and four school-aged children at 7599 Lakewater Drive in Montgomery.

        What's left of the Hatfields' five-bedroom house, like many badly damaged by Friday's tornado in the Montgomery Woods neighborhood, will be demolished beginning today or Friday.

        The reality of starting over had taken hold Wednesday. Shock was wearing off. People were looking ahead more than back. “I keep waiting for some emotional reaction, but there really hasn't been anything,” said Bernie Franks, who was trapped in his bed at 7673 Cornell Road for 90 minutes Friday before being carried out by firefighters.

        The legions of volunteers were back in school or at work Wednesday, and owners made final tours of condemned homes.

        While Pat Makowski sat on the porch of her destroyed home at 11041 Valleystream Drive with a friend, her husband, Gene, and their insurance adjuster and builder examined the foundation.

        “The insurance company's checking to see if it can be saved,” said Mr. Makowski, 62.

        Like the Hatfields, the Makowskis plan to rebuild on their lot.

        “I've started a list of things I'd like to have,” said Mrs. Makowski, 58. “I'll get at least a few of them.”

        Until Wednesday morning, Stephen and Jill Cole, who had a six-bedroom home at 7583 Lakewater Drive, adjacent to the Johnson Nature Preserve, didn't know if they would rebuild or repair. Then the word came from the insurance company: demolish.

        The Coles, who have five children, two in college, have some advice for all homeowners.

        “You don't have time to put your papers in order once this happens,” said Mrs. Cole, 40. “Do it now. Call your carrier. The policies are not clearly written so you can understand them.”

        Said Mr. Cole, a vice president overseeing commercial real estate investments for a large Tristate company: “You cannot rely on your insurance company. You can't just say, "I've got a big company, like millions of other people, so it must be OK.' It's not. You have to be careful.”

        Ron and Kathy Harris' home at 7834 Shadowhill Way had $50,000-$70,000 in damages when a large tree and thechimney fell through a floor. Their home can be repaired.

        Other residents, especially couples with grown children, weren't sure if they would rebuild there. Ed and Carolyn “Tinky” Wallace are leaning toward rebuilding, as are Larry and Jan White who live across Valleystream from the Wallaces.

        “I'd say Mom and Dad are 80-20 (percent) about staying,” said their oldest son, Jeff White, 37, who was salvaging his parents' year-old water heater Wednesday morning and some fencing.

        “My water heater's 12 years old,” said Jeff White, who lives in Milford.

        Down the hill on Lakewater Drive, Mrs. Hatfield was still picking through books volunteers had packed for her Sunday. Work crews removed piles of limbs and tree stumps from her backyard.

        “I want a bigger kitchen,” she said. “It may be six bedrooms. Maybe that's just our dream. My husband is happy. He's already making plans. He got rid of the clutter, and now he's getting a new house.”

        Of course, she said, even a new house — replete with a large kitchen — can't replace the trees and bring back the deer that used to sleep in her backyard.

        “I can see the (Sycamore) high school from here,” said Mrs. Hatfield, who's lived in the neighborhood for almost nine years. “Before the tornado, I couldn't even see the school in the winter.”

        But for everything lost, something's gained.

        “The people who stay,” Mrs. Hatfield said, “are going to be a lot closer.”


8 tornado sirens didn't work
In-home warnings considered
Middletown hears call for sirens
- Residents begin planning new homes
Academy makes room for 340 displaced students
Officially: 92 homes, 40 businesses destroyed
Restoration, demolition to begin
Road closings, curfews
How to help, get help
Mail service still disrupted
County officials report on impact, response