A year later, Aumsville recovering from tornado

AUMSVILLE — A year after a tornado with winds of up to 120 mph ripped through the Willamette Valley town of Aumsville, residents say the town is recovering, but there's still work to do.

The storm on Dec. 14, 2010, damaged 75 structures in the town of 3,700 people and left 10 houses uninhabitable. A prominent building housing the Nichol family's plumbing business was destroyed. But only two minor injuries were reported.

Mayor Harold White said it "looked like a bomb had dropped" on the town 12 miles east of Salem previously known in Oregon for its corn festival in August. Damages were estimated at more than $1 million, but officials say that number is likely lower than the actual cost of replacing structures. The city gave $8,000 to six uninsured families, as churches coordinated aid and more than $40,000 was raised for relief efforts.

Among those whose buildings were destroyed, the Nichols plan to rebuild and their building should be ready early next year, the (Salem) Statesman Journal reported. To celebrate, they're holding a "tornado party."

The family also plans a new enterprise, a 24-hour gym to be called "Tornado Fitness."

Ryan Cates strung Christmas lights last week, perched atop his house on a corner lot where the tornado knocked a tree onto the porch and heavily damaged the roof. He was insured, and repairs were done by mid-year, he said.

"It took me awhile because I was doing it myself," he said.

Del McGill has been helping his 86-year-old father-in-law, Dan Muzechenko, whose home was destroyed when the roof of the plumbing building slammed into it. Muzechenko built the house in 1954.

"We had to wait for the insurance company," McGill said. "It took about two to three months to get that done and a couple months after that to schedule contractors to demolish the house and haul it away."

After trying quarters in nearby Stayton, a larger town, and after a few hospital stays related to the stress, Muzechenko eventually settled with McGill's daughter on the family farm near Jefferson.

"It taught us that every time you think things are normal, they can change in less than a minute," McGill said. "Life changes — your environment, your security, your belongings, they're all endangered. But (it also shows) how quickly a family and a community can come together."

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