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Gifford residents discuss tornado recovery

GIFFORD – Residents of a small central Illinois village raked by a tornado last month have debated whether to rebuild and discussed how last month’s storms will affect the long-term prospect for the community.

Dozens of people attended Thursday evening’s meeting in Gifford to ask questions about zoning issues and storm water drainage, along with requirements for getting assistance from charities, according to a report in The Champaign News-Gazette.

The Nov. 17 storms leveled about 70 homes in the farming community, which has about 970 residents. Another 40 or so homes suffered some sort of damage. All told, the storm affected about a third of the homes in the town, officials say.

At the meeting at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, some residents said they’re worried their neighbors won’t return to rebuild. Others said they’re committed to staying.

Justin Fullenkamp said he has several friends who’ve already left town and that he has seen other homes with “For Sale” signs out front.

“Two of them called me personally, and they apologized,” he said. “They felt like they were giving up on Gifford.”

Judy Singh’s home was destroyed in the storm and her car later died after mechanics discovered that the winds had driven lumber into the radiator and engine. She said she and her son will likely leave Gifford – at least for now.

Relief workers said they’re trying to survey the community’s needs as the rebuilding begins. They’re also trying to coordinate help that’s being offered by various social service groups.

“We’ve got a huge list of people who are calling and asking, ‘What can we do?’” Gann said.

Officials with Habitat for Humanity and American Red Cross said they’re prepared to help.

The storm was one of two dozen blamed for killing seven people in the state.

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