Turning houses into homes - One year after the Merrill tornado - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Turning houses into homes - One year after the Merrill tornado

MERRILL (WAOW) -- When a series of tornadoes swept through our area last April, many families looked to each other for support. One family we met all lived on the same street. They said they've grown closer together after the storm ripped their lives apart.

"We knew something bad was coming," said Katie Lee, who live in Merrill. "We were all outside just watching the skies."

Lee remembers that night when a tornado ripped through her family's neighborhood.

"We no sooner got down there and then it hit here and the noise was just terrific," said Lee. "It was like nothing I've ever been through. It was fast. It was very fast. It didn't seem like it took more than a couple minutes."

You could say her family is pretty close. Many of her children and grandchildren all live on the same street as she does. After the storm swept through, their first instinct was to make sure each member of the family tree was still standing.

"That was the first thing we checked - was everybody okay? Andy had gone to the other houses and everybody was okay," said Lee. "Then you start looking around. You look at it all and you think, I don't know how we'll ever clean this mess up. There was mud on everything. It was just awful. Rafters hanging down from the ceiling. There was stuff everywhere. And you think, where do you begin?"

Some family members knew just where to start. They own a construction company and got right to work.

"Started down by Sarah's because hers was the least damaged so they started down there and did hers first," said Lee. "Then they started on Andy's and ours and then Tim's was the last one. Weren't any of us in too good of shape then but we all pitched in and did whatever we could for each other."

By Labor Day last year, Lee was able to move into her new place. And now the family works to turn their house into a home.

"I said right away that first night, we'll be back. We'll rebuild," said Lee. "Now, I don't know if I could do it again but we did."

Even though many families have finished rebuilding their homes, there is still work to be done in Merrill. On Tuesday night, we'll show you how you can still help out in the community.

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