Confronting the Challenges in Rebuilding After a Tornado

Jun 24, 2013

June is, historically, the busiest month for tornadoes in Wisconsin.

But the state's severe weather can vary wildly from year to year.  Only four tornadoes touched down in Wisconsin in 2012.  The year before, there were forty.  

For people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by a tornado, there is also the practical question of whether, and how to rebuild.

This tornado touched down in Oakfield, Wisconsin, in 1996.
Credit courtesy National Weather Service

It’s a complex issue in a place like Wisconsin, where the housing stock is typically fairly old.  "Many of our homes in Wisconsin were built a hundred years ago," says  Sue Scifo, project manager at ServiceMaster Recovery Services, a member of Milwaukee/NARI which does disaster clean-up, restoration, and rebuilding services in southeastern Wisconsin.  "And [modern building] codes weren’t in place.  

"Putting them back together does require - if a roof blows off - that we do have to follow today's code and put it back together according to that." - Sue Scifo

Even the issue of whether to rebuild at all can be a tricky question.  "It's not always appropriate to restructure an existing home," Scifo says.  "[because] it can be costly.  But if the homeowner wants to do it, it's possible to do it."