Residents Grapple With Mess Left by Storm

Post a Comment » Written on February 8th, 2007     
Filed under: News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH (February 8, 2007) –Survivors of a tornado that heavily damaged this community early Friday morning are still coming to grips with what has happened to them and their friends, while trying to move forward one day at a time.

Truck“They’re still in a state of disbelief,” says retired Evangelical Covenant Church Pastor, Jim Swanson, whose house was struck by the tornado. “We’re all wondering what day it is.”

The tornado that struck this community was one of three that swept across Central Florida, causing at least $68 million in property loss – some 1,300 homes and buildings were damaged. President Bush has designated several counties as disaster areas eligible for millions of dollars in aid and loans.

Residents spend the days meeting with insurance adjustors and contractors while living amid the chaos left in the houses. Neighbors are literally helping one another to pick up the pieces. Those with garages are storing items for families whose homes have been damaged or destroyed.

Swanson’s home suffered roof and other damage, but he says his family was more fortunate than others in the neighborhood, whose houses were destroyed. The storm picked up a neighbor’s pickup truck and deposited it between two homes. A toolbox that had been bolted to the truck was found a quarter mile away.

Swanson houseLarge dehumidifiers work constantly in the Swanson house to rid the building of moisture. “It’s noisy in the house,” Swanson says. Progress is being made slowly. “We can finally get to the kitchen,” he adds. He hopes repairs to the damaged roof can begin sometime next week.

But the days are taking their toll. “I’m just exhausted, but I can’t sleep,” says Jim’s wife, Beverly. “I just lie awake in bed. I was up until 2 a.m. this morning.”

She tries to accept her situation. “The house is a mess. It just has to be that way,” Beverly says. “There’s nothing I can do; I just have to wait.”

Beverly says struggling with accepting her difficulties doesn’t compare to experiencing the pain of losing friends. The Swansons attended Community Covenant Church in DeLand with Michael and Melinda Sluss, who were killed in the storm.

Tragedies always lead to questions, but the answers don’t come easy. “You’re not sure why or what lessons you are supposed to learn,” Beverly says.

Still, Beverly is holding onto her faith, saying, “I’ve been a believer all my life – there’s no reason to stop now.” She recalls that the last song sung during Sunday’s worship service was the contemporary, “How Great is Our God,” adding, “It’s been running through my mind and it won’t quit.”

Editor’s note: the top photo shows the truck deposited between two houses during the storm, with the lower photo showing some of the damage to the Swanson home.

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