All of 81 days after tornadoes ripped ragged wounds across the San Antonio area, many are still struggling to recover.
In the East Shearer Hills neighborhood north of the Olmos Basin, the whine of power tools is still the soundtrack of life in this place where many homes are still shrouded in blue tarps of uncertainty.
"It is taking a lot longer than I think a lot of people expected. Much longer!" said Stephen Stukey, who lives in the 400 block of Linda.
Stukey’s home had roof damage, but the retired educator said that he’s made slow, steady progress in making repairs and is now helping neighbors when he’s able.
“I am helping my neighbor down the street work on his roof and there's a lot of that going on,” said Stukey, who added that many homes in his block remain vacant while owners await the completion of repair work. “Some of the people here are going to be out of their houses anywhere from six to nine months before they can move back in, and that's a frustration for them.”
The long-time resident said that progress is slow for a number of reasons. He said that many of his neighbors have been in extended negotiations with their insurance carriers and others are waiting for contractors to be available to get the work done.
“Contractors are still working on damage from last April's hail storm. They are spread pretty thin and they're trying to fix hail damage. And yet, they're coming down trying to fix tornado damage, and so they are spread pretty thin and it's a problem,” Stukey said. “Some contractors show up once or twice a week to work on houses here.”
As an example, neighbors pointed to the most badly damaged house on the block, which was finally demolished on Wednesday. Most neighbors gave the City of San Antonio high marks for providing good customer service.
“I really appreciate the response the city has had,” Stukey said. “They picked up trash for a month and the response has been good, so I don't mind paying my taxes this month.”
There are homes where nothing seems to be happening and the structures are in virtually the same shape they were in after the storm slammed through on February 20.
A spokesman for District 1 Council Representative Roberto Trevino said that the city is gently prodding these owners, not citing them for violations, but encouraging them to plan and act.
"The widespread, coordinated effort by the City of San Antonio, non-profit groups, and other government entities has made such a positive impact on the areas of San Antonio affected by the February tornadoes,” Councilman Trevino said. “I feel that speaks to San Antonio's longstanding culture of being helpful and taking action. San Antonio was at its finest after the storms hit, and I will never forget that sense of community.”
May 2 was the deadline to file for federal disaster aid from the Small Business Administration.
An agency spokesman said that 37 of 54 applications for low interest loans were approved and a little more than $1 million in help has been awarded.
While the repair work continues, the residents who’ve been able to stay in their homes said that they’re resigned to living life among makeshift plywood repairs, storage pods, and plastic tarps… for now.
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