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Surviving the Tornado of July 19, 2018

Here It Comes!

Most people describe the sound of a tornado as a train roaring down on you, but my husband and I thought it sounded more like the engine of a jet airplane. On July 19, 2018, at approximately 4:30 p.m. an F3 tornado came barreling down Main Street and State Street in Marshalltown, Iowa. Regrettably, our Senior Retirement Center (Trilogy/Embers) was directly in its path and the destruction was severe. Of course, the electricity went out and the elevators could not be used. The building does have a generator but it was disabled by a picnic table that the tornado picked up and threw into it. The Embers consists of four buildings, with 108 apartments, and the damage to each building was immense. For example, of the 700 windows, over 400 were either cracked or blown out completely, leaving glass and debris everywhere. The lovely courtyard with the gazebo, putting greens, trees and flowers was completely destroyed. Roofs on all four buildings were lifted up and set back down leaving the buildings open to the weather. Cars parked in the various parking lots were also severely damaged. The residents of the buildings average 90 years in age and were badly shaken up and wondering what they would do now.

The Morning After the Tornado

The morning after the tornado, the administration of Embers said that all residents had to evacuate. By that time they had purchased several generators which provided some power but the elevators were still not in service. Our daughter and her husband came to take us to their home in a neighboring town. Since we assumed we would only be out for a few days, we only packed what we would need for a week, or less. Needless to say, we never dreamt it would be months before we could move back in!

After a week at our daughter's home, we called Embers to inquire if we could come and retrieve more of our belongings. They informed us that we could but that we would have to be out by 12:00 noon. Since it was already 11:00 a.m. and we were living 15 miles from Marshalltown, we had to make a hurried trip. While there, we talked to one of the maintenance men for Embers and he informed us that there had been an information meeting the night before for Embers residents. Emails had been sent out but we never received one. So we gave them our email address again and from then on we received all relevant emails.

The next week we were informed by Embers that they had packed up all belongings in every apartment and stored them away without our knowledge or consent. Needless to say we were not happy about that. Since we had to leave Embers in such a hurry after the tornado, we did not have many essentials with us; such as prescriptions drugs, our checks, computer, etc. I had my checkbook but realized there was only one check left in it.

Renters' Insurance

After the first week at our daughter's home we decided to contact the agent for our renters' insurance and see if we had any coverage relevant to a tornado. The local agent could not answer that question but he said he would check into it for us. Several days later an adjuster called and informed us that our renters' insurance would cover per diem cost under the "Cost of Additional Living" clause in our policy. Also, they would pay for us to stay at a motel if we determined to do that. So after three weeks, we decided to move to a motel in Marshalltown, Iowa. The insurance paid that complete bill directly for us, plus a per diem for food, etc.

As mentioned earlier, Embers had all of our belongings packed away and stored while repairs were being made at the buildings and we were told that we would be responsible for the payment of those charges. Luckily our adjuster said the insurance would cover that also. Other residents had trouble with their insurance--either they would not pay this cost or would only pay part of it. After seven months they are still fighting with their insurance companies. My husband and I would definitely encourage all renters to carry renters' insurance as it is very cheap. When we first moved into the Embers back in April of 2014, we questioned if we should even purchase renters' insurance. We never dreamt when we took it out how useful it was going to be. The administration at Embers now requires a certificate of renters' insurance before you can move in.

Paper Food and Other Interesting Experiences

During our stay at our daughter's and at the motel, we had several interesting things happen. We tried to go for a walk every day while at our daughter's and this one day the neighbors' children had a food stand in their yard. So we decided to stop and see what they had for sale. Their sign read: Hot dogs, $1; Hamburgers, $1; Water, free. So we ordered two hamburgers and two waters. One of the girls handed me this piece of paper with a picture of a hamburger on it and a plastic cup of water that was half full! We paid them, thanked them and went on. After we got a little way up the street, we started laughing at our "paper food". The next day, the mother and father of the children came to our daughter's house with a plate of cookies and a note from the children that they were going to donate their money to people in Marshalltown who needed it after the tornado.

It was about 7:00 p.m. when we went to stay at the motel and we drove around in circles trying to find the driveway. There were four motels in the area and we found every entrance but the one we wanted. That sounds as though we were pretty stupid, but we were just so exasperated with everything that was going on, we weren't thinking properly. At the motel, every night around 11:00 p.m. there was a thumping sound from the room above us. It would last for about fifteen minutes. We never did learn what that was, but it was disturbing to say the least. The bed in our motel room was so huge we could have slept four easily. When we tried to use the washing machine at the motel, it would not work. That was the way everything went during our evacuation from our apartment. NOTHING WAS SIMPLE.

Building Restoration

When we left The Embers the day after the tornado, we never dreamt we would be evacuated for almost three months. There was so much damage and so much glass all over, the administration decided they needed to redo all the apartments and all of the common areas, including ceilings, carpet, windows, furniture. For 108 apartments and many, many common areas, that was a tremendous undertaking. At one point there were over 100 restoration people working in the four buildings. As of the writing of this article on January 24, 2019 they still are not finished. They are doing mostly touch up work within the buildings themselves, but there are over 300 windows yet to be installed. With the cold winter weather in Iowa, that is a slow process. When the restoration is complete, the four buildings will be just like new.

When we were allowed to move back into our apartment on October 6, 2018, there was no carpet on our floors. All of our possessions were supposedly back in our apartment. But we found several items missing or broken or damaged. We were not allowed to leave our apartment during the day except for meals. And for meals we had to be escorted from our apartment to the community room. The following pictures show some of the work in process during the restoration.


© 2019 joaniebaby

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