Although the EF-3 tornado that hit Taylorville Dec. 1 was felt by those in its path for mere minutes, its effects linger in the town one month later.
Though roads have been cleared, and folks have returned to work and school, many in the hardest hit areas will agree — it's still a mess.
"It's absolutely amazing how much cleanup has happened, but it's also amazing how much cleanup still needs to be done," said Patty Hornbuckle, Greater Taylorville Chamber of Commerce director.
Relief efforts are ongoing. The U.S. Small Business Administration will open an office in Taylorville Thursday through Jan. 17 to offer low-interest loans. Homeowners may apply for loans up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed residences. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Hornbuckle said the Taylorville City Warehouse, 1617 W. Spresser St., is manned by volunteers, who distribute all kinds of building supplies for free, including panels of drywall, shovels, nails and more.
Still, it can be a struggle to convince those affected by the tornado to take advantage of even free resources, she said.
"They are not asking for help," Hornbuckle said. "They say, 'There are people so much worse off than me that need that.' Yes, that's good, but we want to help everyone we possibly can."
Even though many of the immediate needs of survivors have been fulfilled, longer-term worries hover over them.
The tornado is not over, and it lives on a month later in the lives of these survivors.
Rose Scott and Sadie Jo
On Sunday, Rose Scott's family celebrated Christmas. The lunch at the home of one of Scott's children came a few days late, but the timing was on purpose. They wanted to celebrate after Scott, 65, left the hospital.
Scott was at Taylorville Memorial Hospital with a bout of double pneumonia made worse by the tornado. While she was in her living room, the roof of her West Prairie Street home caved in, knocking her on the head and shoulder and leaving her to inhale the layers of freed insulation. She was trapped until a firefighter and her family were able to free her, her mother and her Yorkie, Sadie Jo.
The Christmas lunch was a day to "enjoy being alive," Scott said.
The best present Scott could receive is a lead on a two-bedroom house to rent in the Taylorville area. Her home was destroyed, and she said at her age, she most likely won't rebuild. A buyer has expressed interest in the land her decimated house sits on, and she said she was not eager to go back to West Prairie Street.
"Starting over at the age of 65 is rough," Scott said. "I'll do it. Where there's a will, there's a way."
She's not looking for much — a house without too many steps and a place to grill out with her kids and grandchildren over the summer. In the meantime, Scott and Sadie Jo, who never strays far from her side, will continue to live at her daughter's house.
"I want people who have kids — the families — to find a house first," Scott said.
Randy Crowder, 58, said he's one of the last people still living on the 1200 block of West Dollar Street in Hewittville, an unincorporated village adjacent to Taylorville. The tornado took out the neighborhood, including a significant portion of his mobile home and both of his cars. He and his family managed to survive by taking cover in a concrete shelter he built himself.
"It's hard to look at," Crowder said of his dismantled neighborhood. "The whole neighborhood is gone. My neighbors have all moved on to different places."
In the last month, Crowder has been able to get a roof back onto the home and plywood sheeting around the walls, with help from donations from Hope Church in Springfield, he said.
The big problem, and subsequent expense, will be jacking up the home and sliding it back on its foundation. The tornado shifted the home 10 to 14 inches, he said.
Even with the repairs, living in the house can be difficult. Windows have to be refitted. Plus, the home sits nears train tracks, which Crowder's 6-year-old daughter Cydney used to love. Now, the sound of a train going by makes her ask in terror if the tornado has come back.
"She was in the brunt of it," Crowder said. "She saw it all. There were people running up to her with cuts all over them."
On New Year's Eve, Crowder and his wife Megan wanted to entertain Cydney to give her some fun after a hard month. In the living room, where it was now dry, her parents rigged a balloon drop. When they pulled a string, balloons of all colors fell around her.
There are 10 people, three dogs and four cats in the three-bedroom home of Tammy Bowers' brother. Even though it's a bit of a squeeze, she's grateful he has made space for her, her husband David, her two kids, two dogs and two cats after the tornado tore up their one-story home at 1000 block of West Coal Street.
Bowers, 42, said she is looking for a temporary place for her family to stay while they tear down their home and rebuild it. It's been hard to find a place that will also take in her pets, she said.
They rented out a hotel room on Christmas Eve to have some family time. Friends donated gifts to her kids.
She's thankful, but she acknowledged Christmas was "a bit rough."
"All of the things we usually got to do together on Christmas, we didn't get to do, like the baking and the wrapping of the presents," Bowers said.
Bowers said she's been able to keep a positive attitude, but there have been difficult moments.
The tornado has put her family on "high alert." When a recent storm bashed around trash cans outside, her 8-year-old daughter Emma worried the winds were a tornado.
"You hear branches breaking, and it sends a chill," Bowers said.
Their belongings are still scattered about Hewittville or were thrown in trash bags in a rush to clear their home out for the bulldozers. Bowers drives a loaner car to Springfield for her job as a state worker.
"I still feel like I'm in the tornado," Bowers said. "I feel like the whirlwinds are whirling all around us."
Yet, Bowers called the tornado a "blessing" and a "stepping stone." Help has poured in from strangers and friends and family, from the community, as well as the Multi-Agency Resource Center, the Christian County Sheriff's Department and the local food pantry.
The tornado has shown her how compassionate humans can be, she said.
Nick Poor, 66, has the home in the 700 block of Curve Street, where he and his wife Susan live "buttoned up. " Plywood covers broken windows, the grounds have been cleaned of debris and their trees have been trimmed. He has temporarily fixed the front awning and will soon repair the damaged fence, he said.
An indirect bit of damage that may be harder to fix has been the hit to his business Sunny Knoll Organics, 2215 W. Spresser St., a patio design business he opened in August 2017. Although nary a "flower pot moved" during the storm, he experienced a 60 percent to 70 percent drop in sales last month compared to last year, he said. He thinks the community, wracked with uncertainty after the tornado, has been reluctant to spend.
"We were rolling along quite nicely, and then December came along and changed everything," Poor said.
He also worries about his business' right-hand man, who has been displaced by the tornado with his daughters.
On a smaller note, he wonders when all the downed trees will be replaced. Before his current business, he owned a landscaping business in Taylorville called The Garden Spot for 26 years. Unlike homes, trees are not insured, he said.
"I think, 'Nick, how many of those trees you planted are now gone?'" Poor said.
There isn't a day the tornado isn't on his mind, he said.
"Sometimes it's like this blur, this dream, something you can't imagine," Poor said.