Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
Returning from a vacation trip two weeks ago, the tragedy
and horror of the EF4 tornado that tore through the northwestern
edge of DeKalb County plus parts of Ogle County hit us.
We know people there, and I had been to the home of Clem
Schultz to do a story on his typewriter repair business and also
visited the home of a friend Pam Metcalf in rural Kirkland.
Now their lives are devastated by losses that are difficult
to comprehend. I also read about the Powell family in the April
11 Daily Chronicle. Two of Powells daughters work as certified
nursing assistants where I live at the Oak Crest Retirement Center.
One of them, Deena, and her two daughters were caught in
the fury of the twister along with her father, Roger, and mother,
Mary Powell. They escaped with minor injuries, except Mary, who
suffered a concussion and was in a Rockford hospital for six
Deena and her two girls, Calli and Haleigh, are now staying
with her sister Tiffany in Kirkland while her parents are temporarily
living with Marys sister.
She told me the harrowing tale of escaping death by minutes
when her father looked out the door and spotted the tornado just
down the street. They have no warning sirens in this rural community,
but they had received alerts on a cellphone. Powell grabbed their
dog and the family fled down the basement steps, literally seconds
before their two-story house was ripped off its foundation and
torn into pieces, one part blown toward Route 72 and the top
half dumped into a field. Part of the kitchen smashed into her
van, totaling it.
After it became quiet for a few minutes, Deena crawled
up on top of the washer to look out of the basement. At that
moment a neighbor came running over to help them all out of the
Meanwhile, her sister Tiffany and family had taken refuge in
their Kirkland basement and heard over Facebook that Fairdale
had been flattened. She rushed out there to see what she could
do. She saw neighbors already helping other neighbors dig out
of the wreckage.
Deena explained how the Kirkland Fire Department, Red Cross,
other county agencies and scores of volunteers rushed to help
them and still are assisting where needed.
Deena Schell, at left, and daughters are staying with
her sister Tiffany Simmons, at right, in Kirkland until they
can figure out how to find more permanent housing. (Barry Schrader
This photo, taken by Tiffany Simmons, shows the basement
her parents and sisters family crawled out from April 9
after the 7:15 p.m. twister passed. The washer (center of photo)
can be seen that Deena Schell climbed onto as neighbors rushed
to their aid. Additional debris was dumped into the basement
before this photo was taken.Deena's van crushed by debris (Photo by Tiffany Simmons)
One anecdote demonstrates the distance the winds carried
debris. A resident of Harvard called the Kirkland school where
Deenas daughter attends to report finding her Honor Roll
certificate that far away.
The Powell family was fortunate to have homeowners insurance
on the house where they have lived since 1986, and State Farm
already settled their claim, Deena said. She believes her parents
will not try to rebuild, but relocate elsewhere. It is felt by
many that the zoning and building regulations, septic system
and water well requirements will make it too costly to stay.
It is a blessing, however, that a long-term recovery effort,
led by Bill Nicklas through the DeKalb County Community Foundation,
will help those most in need.
At the same time, I find it unfair that the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) and Illinois Emergency Management Agency
have turned their backs on helping this community, yet just two
years ago granted $5.6 million for the demolition of mobile homes
and relocation of every resident of Evergreen Village in Sycamore.
The floodplain problem is serious, but nowhere near as
devastating as the tornado that caused fatalities and total destruction
of most of Fairdale and other rural homes near Kirkland.
My feeling is that our U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Mark
Kirk, along with our congressional and state delegations should
have put more pressure on the appropriate federal agencies to
step up. Its our taxes that pay for FEMA, and they work
for us, dont they