June 7, 2014

Nearly a month after a tornado, much recovery work remains in Orrick, Mo.

Although the storm caused no injuries in the town of about 800 people, it damaged more than 80 percent of the homes and scattered debris. Among residents, a sense of optimism seems to pervade the recovery process. But a lot still needs to be done before the town returns to normal.

For the past few weeks, a group in Orrick, Mo., has been feeding about 100 people a day — volunteers helping with tornado cleanup, highway workers clearing tree debris, residents who are still displaced or don’t have kitchens in working order.

Since a tornado touched down in the town of about 800 people almost a month ago, Orrick has been cleaning up the mess left behind. Although the storm caused no injuries, it damaged more than 80 percent of the homes and scattered debris across town.

Among residents, a sense of optimism seems to pervade the recovery process. But work still remains before the town returns to normal.

Help with the cleanup has been pouring in throughout the past month, including from the Missouri Department of Transportation, church groups, individual volunteers and even a group of inmates. A team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency completed an assessment, but Orrick didn’t qualify for its assistance.

So far, debris has largely been cleared and new roofs are going on some houses.

“It’s just been kind of a community effort, and just like any other community, people pitch in and help,” said Lions Club member Julie Goetz, who has been coordinating volunteers for the community.

The Orrick Lions Club has been working with local churches to serve lunches five days a week to people who need them. The Lions take care of providing the food, and the churches take care of cooking and serving, Goetz said.

“We may not be able to pay you, but we can feed you,” said her husband, Lions Club member Kenny Goetz.

The local Lions Club received a grant from Lions Clubs International to help with the recovery.

Mayor Cindy Lampton remains worried about the long-term effects of the tornado. She said the town’s population took a hit after a flood in 1993, and she thinks the tornado could have a similar effect.

She is also worried about some of the expenses of tornado recovery. Although insurance is covering repairs to public buildings, Orrick has to come up with the money to cover other areas.

A set of trash containers where people have been leaving debris has racked up costs, Lampton said. Both of the town’s parks were destroyed.

“One day at a time — I’ve just got to keep telling myself that,” she said.

Right now, Lampton is trying to find grants or donations to pay for the repairs that aren’t covered by insurance, and the local Lions Club has set up an account to raise funds for tornado relief. A long-term recovery committee began meeting recently to figure out ways to address unmet needs in the community. The committee has started door-to-door assessments to find what those needs are.

“It’s looking like it’s getting back to normal,” Lampton said. “There’s still a long way to go, but it’s getting there.”

The school district requires roof and air conditioning repairs. Fencing needs to be replaced. Windows need to be fixed.

Then there are little things, such as repairing the greenhouse, replacing a storage shed and restoring power to part of the building.

Although repairs won’t be complete by the time school starts in the fall, Superintendent Aerin O’Dell plans to open the doors to students in August.

To reach Allie Hinga, call 816-234-4070 or send email to ahinga@kcstar.com.

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