Tornado damage estimated at $1.5 million
Owners of downtown firms ready
The damage from the May 11 tornado lives on.
John Franiuk, Tonganoxie mayor, estimated total damages at about $1.5 million.
"About three homes were totaled out and are going to have to be scrapped, and a few non-residential units, such as the storage facility by Himpel Lumber and the Assembly of God church were also totaled," the mayor said.
More than 243 inspections have been done, and Franiuk said at least104 homes and 15 businesses have minimal damage, and five houses and three businesses suffered major damage.
At the Assembly of God Church at Sixth and Church streets, the Rev. Herman Karriker said the congregation is planning to rebuild.
The timetable is still an unanswered question.
"We are taking some bids on removing that roof," he said. "It's a little too early to say for sure."
At Tonganoxie Elementary School, where two portions of the roof were damaged, construction on a new roof began Monday.
"In the next couple of weeks, we'll see most of the cleaning completed on those classrooms that were damaged," said Richard Erickson, superintendent of schools.
Erickson said he was pleased with the volunteers who came to the district's aid.
And employees worked many hours to ensure that school could resume at the elementary school on the Monday after the Thursday night tornado.
"I don't think it could have happened any faster and it came together very well," he said. "I'm thankful to everybody who had a part in it."
Downtown, where tornadoes ripped roofs from some of the buildings, owners are doing all they can to make things right.
"We're trying to shore things up and make them safe," said Phyllis Shilling of Shilling Electric.
The storm ripped roofs from two buildings owned by the company, one on Fourth Street and the other at Third and Bury. Since the storm, company employees have concentrated on repairing the roofs, she said.
"We've taken a few calls for the business, but the guys have pretty much been devoted to making the buildings secure," she said.
Shilling Electric has been a part of Tonganoxie's downtown since September 1948 when Alvin and Alta Shilling started the business.
Next door, John Lenahan said he was glad to be operating with electricity again.
"I did business in the dark, so it didn't change a thing," Lenahan said with a chuckle.
Lenahan's roof was repaired. Now, he's hopeful it will hold.
"I won't know until it rains," he said. "I had a quick patch job."
Down the street at The Studio, a video rental shop located on Fourth Street for two years, Joan Cobb hopes to be back in business this weekend, or as soon as repairs are made.
"We're waiting for a new roof," she said Monday. "The materials are supposed to be in Tuesday or Wednesday."
Just a few doors down at Fourth Street CafDerek Williams, a cook there, said he was dreading Tuesday's predicted high temperature of 95 degrees.
"It'll be scorching in here," he said.
The tornado damaged the air-conditioning unit for the front of the restaurant, as well as the hood fan for the stove and vents atop the shed roof. Williams said he expected the air-conditioners to be replaced today.
Don Pelzl, owner of Pelzl's True Value Hardware, continues to weather the effects of the storm.
"All of our air-conditioning got ripped out and we're still dealing with that problem," Pelzl said.
And he's repairing other problems.
"Probably about 25 percent of the floor is severely damaged," Pelzl said. "The floor is buckling and it's going to have to be replaced."
A lot of that floor is under shelving shelving moved a year ago when the Pelzls remodeled their store.
"That's becoming a major problem," Pelzl said, "to figure out how to fix the floors without tearing everything down again."
The opening date still jiggles like newly set Jello.
"I keep hoping, and I keep saying two weeks," Pelzl said. "But it's been one week already and I think it's going to be two weeks more before we're officially open."
The worst part of the whole deal?
"Being closed," Pelzl said. "We're just not used to that."
Next door, Matt Bichelmeyer, whose new steakhouse opened a month ago, has replaced the subfloor and carpet that were damaged by rainwater after the tornado damaged his roof.
Bichelmeyer said he plans to be back in business Thursday morning.
"We'll be as good or better than we were before," Bichelmeyer said. "We have a breakfast chef hired and, starting Friday, we'll be doing breakfast from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and we'll be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner.
Franiuk praised the volunteers and for their efforts in helping put the town back together.
And he said the city now needs to develop more detailed emergency preparedness plans.
"Everybody did really well in responding and getting things done," Franiuk said. "But I think we really need to sit down and work much, much harder on an emergency preparedness plan for Tonganoxie. That's definitely coming up on our list of things to do here pretty quick."
Lisa Stevens John is news editor at The Mirror, and Caroline Trowbridge is editor and publisher at The Mirror.