The rebuilding process began as soon as the storm had passed. Bob and
Rozella Loon had been visiting friends in Spencer when the tornado hit. After they emerged
from the Kolbreck basement, they headed for the hastily constructed emergency command post
on nearby Highway 38.
- Bob Loon - 2:15 " On the way there we
climbed over trees and power poles. Rozella helped older folks out of the wreckage. She
told one gal, stay where you are...I'll be back. They we're going to let her go back so
she took off running to go help that woman."
Gary Phillips and Cathy Magnuson survived the tornado under a work bench in the
basement of Cathy's home. The house was demolished.
- Gary, Cathy and "Sam" Roberts - 2:30
"I look up and watched the house go. Strange things happened. The pets were in
their cages and were blown into the kitchen. Things that were in the kitchen cupboards
were blown out the window and into my van. It blew away our service station, but a car was
left up on the hoist."
Governor Janklow was on the scene to help director rescue and recovery efforts
shortly after the storm passed. He says the volunteer spirit was evident from the
- Governor Janklow - 4:33 "We had
people from 67 counties helping and from 23 different states. There were people driving
through and stopped to help. It was a human thing and South Dakota could not have
responded better. The goodness of people...that's what we really learned."
Residents universally praised the efforts of more than 8,000 volunteers and many
prison trustees that helped to clean up the community in record time.
In the midst of the clean up efforts, Federal assistance was promised. By the
Wednesday after the storm, Vice President Gore toured Spencer. South Dakota Public Radio's
Paulett Cott and Frank Scanlan reported on the visit.
- Paulette/Frank - 3:48 "The Vice
President has been talking with some residents about the storm and the clean-up process.
He plans to speak to a town meeting of residents. The cold weather has not hampered the
clean up effort and residents are waiting to hear more about what federal assistance will
be available for rebuilding".
The Southeastern Council of Governments was put in charge of organizing
information about damage in Spencer. From a Survey conducted June 15, 1998;
- 156 property owners were undecided about rebuilding.
- 62 properties were ok or would be rebuilt
- 16 property owners wanted to stay in Spencer but at a different location
- 12 owners wanted to lease or sell excess property in the community
By July 28, 1998:
- The amount of money from private donations to the Spencer Relief Fund totals
$612,402.41, including $305,402.41 from the Spencer Area Recovery and Interfaith Network
Early estimates to replace:
- The Assisted Living Apartments $660,000
- The Water Tower $232,145
- The City Maintenance Building $ 38,885
- The Fire Hall Building $ 91,240
- The Library Building $143,329
- The Fire/Warning Siren $ 12,126
- The Traffic Control Signs $ 6,300
- The Water Distribution System $110,166
- The City/Fire Hall Contents $ 11,210
- Fire Protection Equipment $ 61,692
- Total FEMA assistance to the Town of Spencer for these projects (75% of costs
not covered by insurance) $376,663.25
- Insurance Coverage for these projects $603,000
- Community Development Block Grant Funds (CDBG) for these projects $622,000
- SARIN has served 115 families with funds designated by the Governor's
Committee. Total funds obligated through November, 1998 $307,000
During a tree planting blitz on Arbor Day (April 30, 1999) Volunteers planted
250 6' to 8' landscaping trees and 570 conservation grade trees in and around the
Governor Janklow returned to Spencer May 14th, 1999 and assessed the rebuilding
- Governor Janklow - 1:20 "I don't
think everyone that is going to rebuild has started yet. The bank and the quick stop are
back. People that I talk to say this is my home, this is where I want to stay".
"Sam" Roberts and her husband Chuck have rebuilt "Spencer
Automotive Service" and Cathy and Gary are in a new home.
- Sam, Gary and Cathy - :46
"We decided we are going to stay. We had some insurance money but not enough. We'll
get this all built back someday"
By May 1999
- FEMA Public Assistance - $1,914,126
- Individual Assistance - $2,171,298
- CDBG Grants - $1,000,000
- Governor's Fund - $1,082,572
- 10,900 insurance claims have been filed for storm damage in the surrounding
five county area
- Spencer insurance claims - $13,000,000
- Other insurance claims - $12,000,000
You can see photographs and video clips of Spencer 11 months after the tornado
at "Spencer Today" link.
Wurman, a storm chaser that studied and witnessed the storm.
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