Go or Stay ? — tough decisions to be made post-disaster in Joplin, MO

What Little is Left

Image by Darin House via Flickr

For Joplin tornado victims, the first question is whether to stay.
Kansas City Star, May 28, 2011.

… the experiences of other tornado-ravaged towns speak to the hard work that lies ahead. Rubble will be cleared. Homes will be rebuilt. The economy will be spurred. Communities and neighbors will bond tighter by shared experience.

People also will pick up and move. With homes bulldozed, vacant lots will dot neighborhoods. The address “FEMAville” – for the thousands of displaced residents who will call Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers home for months to years – will become part of the local language.

In Greensburg, Kan., which was virtually wiped from the map by a tornado on May 4, 2007, fully half the population of 1,500 did not return.

In Tuscaloosa, Ala., where an April 27 twister killed 41 people and destroyed or damaged 7,500 buildings, rubble still stretches for acre upon acre. Chainsaws still work to clear roads and yards. Thousands wait on insurance settlements and bank loans. People remain out of work. No one knows yet how many Tuscaloosans will stay and rebuild and how many will just move on.

Only days removed from the Joplin tornado, Kent and his neighbors say they’re still in shock. Countless questions swirl in their minds, but one stands out.”The question is ‘Do I even want to live here anymore?’ ” said Ed McAllister, whose home was leveled. The family’s car lay flipped upside down on top of the mound that was his house.

There are so many factors that enter into each owner’s decision : some are economic, others have to do with family connections and personal relationships, and the element of trust and confidence in public and private owners of key organizations and institutions in the community. Another consideration is the age and work status of owners — for example, a retiree might chose to relocate to a different climate or a readily available house.  In Joplin, major employment centers, like the hospitals, stores, and schools need to be rebuilt, and that cannot happen quickly.  The stay/go decisions will be paramount in the coming weeks.

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