Sunday, October 10, 1999

Communities add tornado costs

Preparedness part of activity

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Six months later, the spotlight has faded on the communities hit by the April 9 tornado, but families, schools and businesses are still feeling the effects of the storm that ripped through the Tristate, taking lives and causing millions in damage. Here is a community-by-community update on recovery efforts and costs.

        The township spent $53,193 in tornado-related expenses. “We had 1,345 evacuees — a lot of them from the Village Brooke Apartments complex. It is scheduled to be torn down ... and rebuilt ... a complete loss,” Trustee President Eric Minamyer said.

        At Grace Baptist Church on Lebanon Road, where the storm caused an estimated $270,000 damage, the Rev. Erik Carlsen said a project to rebuild the education wing will take another six months. “We hope to be in there on the first anniversary” of the tornado, he said.

        Ironically, the township had set aside about $80,000 this year prior to the tornado to buy four warning sirens, and trustees approved that move Sept. 28. The sirens will be linked to six others in Loveland and to Hamilton County's early warning system, Mr. Minamyer said.

        The township also has adopted a warning system that will alert residents who carry electronic pagers, he said. The computer hardware and frequencies needed to start the program in the Loveland-Symmes Fire District were already available and residents carry their own pagers, so there was no cost involved in starting the system, Mr. Minamyer said.

Blue Ash
        Safety Director Bruce Henry said most of the tornado damage was to businesses. He said 22 businesses were damaged; eight of those were y destroyed.

        There were 53 homes s hit; eight had major damage.

        He said the city has estimated total damage in excess of $30 million.

        “The area is being rebuilt, but we have not fully recovered,” Mr. Henry said. He estimates the cost to the city at $400,000. Blue Ash has applied for $180,000 reimbursement from state emergency funds.

        City Manager Cheryl Hilvert said uninsured expenses to the city from the tornado — “overtime, equipment usage, equipment rentals and contractual services” — tallies $255,686. Of that, the overtime cost $65,705.

        City insurance has paid for a new service department building and contents and a tornado siren (minus a $2,500 deductible). “That's probably $250,000 in insured losses,” said Public Works Director Bob Nikula.

        Trees were lost at the Johnson Nature Preserve “but there is no way to place a monetary loss on trees. However, included in our figure are costs for hazardous tree removal and trail restoration at the preserve,” Mrs. Hilvert said. “The trees are not reimbursable.”

        In all, 27 houses were destroyed, 31 had severe damage and 31 minor damage from the twister. The Tri-Health facility on Pfeiffer Road was damaged — the only business. It was repaired within a month, Mrs. Hilvert said.

        Of the 27 destroyed homes — all in the Montgomery Woods Subdivision — building permits for reconstruction have been issued at 22 of the sites.

        Mrs. Hilvert said the city council “appropriated $500,000 out of unappropriated general funds in the budget to handle the emergency and it did — it was enough to handle all expenses.”

        Significant additional clean up costs to all communities affected by the storm was averted when hundreds of volunteers turned out to provide free labor. “They should be thanked, and thanked again,” Mrs. Hilvert said.

        A summer of work at two schools erased signs of damage inflicted by the April tornado.

        The tornado's path crossed the middle school at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA), on Snider Road in Symmes Township, causing $1.4 million in damage. Minutes before, the swirling winds skirted Sycamore High School on Cornell Road in Montgomery, sparing the building but wreaking havoc on the school's athletic facilities.

        The tornado displaced 330 students from CHCA's middle school. They finished the school year at CHCA's high school.

        Classes resumed at the middle school this fall.

        At Sycamore High School, summer work repaired extensive damage to athletic facilities, including a massive cleanup to rid the dirt of wind-driven nails and glass.

        Sycamore High's tally: $310,000 damage to fences, bleachers and goals on baseball, softball and soccer fields and tennis courts; $70,000 to a storage shed and the lawn-maintenance equipment inside; $25,000 to the roof over the swimming pool; $15,000 in material blown away from a construction site for a classroom wing.

        Repair to the swimming-pool roof was slowed by the unavailability of building supplies.

        The Sycamore district also lost a building and its contents, valued at $200,000, that sat adjacent to the high school and housed four employees. That building is not being rebuilt, and the high school will use the land for athletic fields. — Allen Howard, Walt Schaefer and Christine Wolff


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