Missouri Town Recovering After April Tornado

December 13, 2011

The same Good Friday tornado that slammed into Lambert Airport and damaged hundreds of homes in St. Louis County made its first stop in the St. Charles County town of New Melle, Mo. Seven months later, the town is back on its feet.

The tornado touched down April 22 and damaged several homes in New Melle, a community of roughly 300 residents. The Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis reports that about 50 properties were damaged, including 20 that had moderate to severe damage.

The town didn’t qualify for federal disaster relief. Insurance paid for most of the reconstruction.

Garry Ochs, 67, whose home sustained $25,000 in damage and who lost 13 trees, said people pitched in to help each other.

“With a lot of hard work and a lot of help, things are pretty well back to normal,” Ochs said.

Up the road, Jimmie Hite Stables has been rebuilt, though business has been slow to recover after losing four months due to the damage – destroyed roof, smashed front of the building, holes in the walls. There were previously 18 horses, but now there are eight, head trainer Max Ciampoli said. Insurance covered the cost of rebuilding the stable, which reopened in September.

“The building is better than ever,” Ciampoli said. “It’s even better than it was 20 years ago when we first built it.”

Just as neighbors helped Ochs, the community came together to help the stable clean up and rebuild, Ciampoli said.

“They have a strong bond with each other,” he said. “When the tornado hit, there were neighbors here helping before I got here. They worked through the night.”

New Melle Fire Protection District Chief Rick Massey said he believes the area has recovered completely.

“All the homes are repaired and everyone is taken care of,” he said. “We were lucky.”

Residents are thankful the only medical emergency was a minor incident in which a woman’s implanted defibrillator misfired.

“We did not even have anyone get a splinter out of this whole ordeal,” Massey said. “It is unreal compared to what could have happened.”

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