Picking Up The Pieces: Six Months after Washington, IL Tornado

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by Michael Schlesinger

(Washington, IL)--We've seen the anguish on so many people's faces this week as they deal with what's left behind from terrible twisters. This time, Washington, Illinois was spared. But last November, on a sleepy Sunday morning, the town saw Mother Nature's fury at its worst.

CBS58's Michael Schlesinger was one of the first reporters on the scene hours after the tornado struck. And now, six months later, Michael shows us how these folks are picking up the pieces and giving us advice on how we all can deal with adversity, especially from a natural disaster.

Blake Blumenshine sees progress on his new home, slowly but surely. The 43-year old's prior home in Washington was just about leveled by the November 17th tornado. It was around 11 in the morning. Many were at church. Blumenshine was working in his garage and heard a noise. He looked out and saw the tornado practically at his front door. He says at first he was in denial. But when he heard the roar of the tornado and all the glass shattering, reality hit fast.

It's estimated close to one thousand homes were damaged. And half of those were completely destroyed because of the EF 4 tornado with winds more than 165 mph. Three lives were lost as well.

Roger Hickman is a Washington native and an insurance agent. He says this past winter's extreme conditions, including sixty inches of snow, really played a factor. He says the harsh winter probably put the rebuilding efforts behind some three months. It first took at least a month to practically bulldoze much of the town, he added. But he says the delay due to the harshness of the winter isn't such a bad thing. He believes it gave people a chance to sit back, take a breath and think how to plan a better, stronger home. He stresses having a trusted, reputable contractor is key as well. Hickman believes at least 70 percent of the people who lost everything, like Blake Blumenshine, will stay. He says the community determination and unity are stronger than any force of nature coming down from the sky.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, or IBHS, offers some helpful advice on improvements you can make to your home to lessen the damage from a tornado. Some tips include keeping trees and shrubbery trimmed, using mulch rather than rock or gravel material to cut down on flying debris during high winds, and anchor anything heavy in your yard to prevent them becoming dangerous missles. Log onto https://www.disastersafety.org/ for more information.

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