A sign of the times

Published 2:09 pm Saturday, June 12, 2010

It’s a sign the storm didn’t get the best of the community.

After the June 17, 2009, tornado destroyed the welcome sign for Royal Manor, a development of seven homes north of Mapleview, Glenn Medgaarden crafted a replacement from five downed utility poles.

“I just felt that would be a culmination of everybody’s efforts in the neighborhood,” Glenn said. “And, it just kind of let mother nature know that she didn’t get the best of us.”

The utility company allowed Glenn to keep the poles, which he took to a saw mill to have cut into boards. The sign reads simply “Royal Manor” with a letter on the back telling people to visit again. Glenn and his wife, Judy, have been maintaining a small flower bed around the sign.

“I just wanted to make it look good after the storm did all that damage to us last spring,” Glenn said.

Damage from storms isn’t new to Royal Manor. In the 16 years Judy and Glenn have lived at 23587 542 Ave., they’ve seen their neighbors’ homes damaged by flooding from the Cedar River. Though Judy and Glenn’s home is out of the flood plain, nine of the original 16 homes were moved from the development during a flood buyout.

However, Glenn said last year’s storm surpassed anything they witnessed before.

“It was the worst experience we’ve been into,” he said.

On June 17, 2009, Judy and Glenn had just returned home from a barbecue at the fairgrounds. Glenn, who was working in the garden, could see a storm building to the west, but much of the storm was blocked by his house and a row of trees. While he was still working in the garden, Judy called him from the house to tell him of the storm warnings.

Glenn rode his four-wheeler to the end of the road, and that’s when he saw the tornado to the northwest.

Judy and Glenn rushed to the basement. From a basement window, Glenn could see the storm knock down the first in a row of trees in his backyard.

“I heard a loud bang and then we started losing some suspended ceiling in the lower level,” Glenn said. “I thought the roof had went off.”

“We heard the crashes and the bangs and didn’t know what was going on,” Judy added.

Glenn and Judy’s three seasons room on the west side of their home was destroyed by the storm. The tornado tore out windows from the west side of the home, and even pulled things from the kitchen table.

“The whole house was just full of mud and glass,” Glenn said.

The tornado itself passed quickly, as Glenn said it was gone in less than a minute, but they’d be dealing with the damage until close to Thanksgiving.

“My first words when I came out of the hose were ‘Oh, my god where do we start,’” Glenn said. “It was complete devastation.”

The family started by using tarps to cover much of the roof, which the which the storm had pulled from the house.

“We never found any of the roof,” Glenn said. “There was a ceiling fan. We never found any of it.”

The storm destroyed 42 evergreen trees and a few trees from Judy and Glenn’s apple orchard. Since then, the two have replanted about as many trees as they lost.

Glenn and Judy also have about a one acre garden on their property, which the tornado significantly damaged. Much of the sweet corn planted in the garden was torn out of the ground. Many of their 900 onion plants the two planted were flattened, though Judy said some did come back.

Though the recovery would take them months, the residents of Royal Manor weren’t alone. Judy said they had a lot of good friends and neighbors help in the cleanup.

Judy said there are still many trees along the Cedar River near Royal Manor, which has yet to be cleaned up.

Even after doing an estimated $80,000 of work on his property — some which wasn’t covered by insurance — Glenn said replacing the sign was a positive for the community.

“I just felt it was appropriate to identify our community again,” he said.

“I hope I never have to go through it again,” he added.