|Issues from last spring’s storm still being addressed|
|Written by Kyle Arnoldy|
It has been nearly a year since the April 8 spring storm ripped through Holyoke with whipping winds that not only uprooted trees, but leveled buildings and overturned airplanes.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, emergency response procedures and disaster services were reviewed. It quickly became clear in the days following the storm that Holyoke and Phillips County as a whole needed to coordinate efforts to ensure all first responder and emergency services were aware of disaster protocols.
Now, 12 months removed from the storm, Phillips County Emergency Manager Bob Heldenbrand said Phillips County is still working to fully update the county emergency operation plan. While the storm thankfully caused no serious injuries or deaths, Heldenbrand noted that it was an eye-opening experience.
In emergency events, Heldenbrand explained that the county is now much more aware of services, such as Red Cross, offered to those affected by natural disasters. He explained that communication is often the downfall in disastrous events, but the county has worked to improve communication channels to reach outside mutual aid partners at crucial times.
“We can’t stop the wind, but after the fact, we have a better knowledge of how we can support those directly affected,” Heldenbrand said.
Much of the most extensive damage to businesses and individual properties was confined to the edges of town. A trailer on the southwest end of town lost its roof, and three properties owned by businesses and individuals on the east end of town had buildings completely leveled.
Financially, the storm cost the city over $100,000. The biggest single expense was rebuilding the pole shed east of town that was completely demolished. Nearly $40,000 was used to construct a new shed.
Rebuilding the shed may have been a bit of a hassle, but one of the most frustrating aspects of losing the pole shed was the fact that any plans for an animal shelter were rendered useless.
For months, Holyoke City Council members had discussed utilizing some space in the shed to house stray animals. City Superintendent Mark Brown stated that he spent three to four eight-hour days physically working to bring the shed up to any state codes associated with housing animals.
When the shed toppled, plans were put on hold. A new pole shed was constructed just east of the old location a quarter of a mile south of Highway 6 on Phillips County Road 41. The old location could possibly be used to build an animal shelter in the future, but no plans have been finalized.
The golf course also experienced a great deal of damage in the storm. Over $25,000 was used to replace the shingles on the clubhouse roof and to build two new buildings for booster stations for the sprinklers.
Electrical expenses tallied over $22,000 as eight power poles were snapped in the high-powered wind gusts. Close to $13,000 was used to repair damages at the cemetery. Many trees needed removed, and a roof replacement was necessary on the property.
Over $3,000 went to making fixes at the airport. Four of the 14 hangars experienced some damage, with two of the leases on hangars being released as damages were extensive. The roof of the pilot’s lounge also needed repairs. Another $1,000 was necessary to clean debris that may have landed in the sewer pond in the storm.
All fees associated with the storm include city worker labor costs.
A new siren was also installed last week at the fairgrounds that will only sound for tornadoes.
Another issue that was brought to light after the storm was the condition of a handful of trailers at the mobile home park west of the airport. Debris in the wind posed a potential safety issue to residents in the area.
After months of trying to get the owner of the trailer park, John Baranway, to remove the trailers, the city was forced to summon him to court.
It was decided Wednesday, March 26 that Baranway has one month to remove one trailer and either restore two trailers or have them removed as well.
If no action is taken, Baranway will have to return to court and pay fines totaling $320. If the property is found to be in compliance, Baranway’s fines will be reduced to $70.
One reason stated for the delay in addressing the problems at the trailer park was that Baranway also lost a trailer park in another town during the fall floods. He noted that trying to handle all of the flood-related problems had taken up the majority of his time.
Holyoke Enterprise April 3, 2014