More work to be done: One year after Merrill tornado
MERRILL (WAOW) -- It was one year ago today that a record-setting series of tornados ripped through our state. 15 tornados in all -- including a few that hit many of us close to home. The twister that blew through Merrill was about a quarter mile wide with a path 21 miles long. It caused about $11 million in damage between the city and the township. Even though many are back in their homes, there's still work to be done.
Around this time last year, volunteer efforts were in full swing. After an EF3 tornado hit Merrill, happy helpers -- both young and old -- donated their time and money for the cause.
"Just the sheer number of donations that have come in from all over the country was very overwhelming," said Merrill Chamber of Commerce executive director Debbe Kinsey.
In all, donors funneled about $240,000 through the Chamber, which helped people pay for out-of-pocket costs. Kinsey said they're not done yet.
"Now that a lot of the construction is completed, now they're heading outdoors," said Kinsey. "They have no yard anymore so some of the new things will be black dirt, grass seed, the replanting of trees."
Other volunteers took a different approach -- making and handing out 75 quilts to tornado survivors so far.
"I can't go out and help out there with the brush and everything but I can do this," said volunteer Arlene Bagley. "This is my part in helping."
Workers at the Merrill Area Community Enrichment Center said they helped fill a more intangible need: comfort.
"They need that so bad," said Bagley. "Something to cuddle when they're worn out and stressed out. They need it."
Volunteer coordinator Ron Kautz said he still has a few projects on his radar.
"There's a lot of work to be done yet," said Kautz. "There's yards that need to be re-landscaped and seeded and all of those things."
Last year, 2,5000 trees were donated to help re-forest the area. Now, Kautz said one company is looking to donate 500 more.
"Some of the people have property that needs to be cleaned up and they've asked, can we get someone to help?" said Kautz.
Groups from all over helped with the clean-up last year. Kautz said he's preparing a crew to help when disaster strikes somewhere else.
"Merrill has a very pioneer spirit," said Kinsey. "You help your neighbor and we've seen that time and time again but probably no greater than what we've seen in the past year."
"The community -- our Merrill community -- was just wonderful," said tornado survivor Katie Lee. "I can't thank those people enough. They were just great."
If you want to help out -- by donating your time or money to the cause -- you can call Kautz at 715.218.0103 or contact the Merrill Chamber of Commerce.