Duquesne rebuilding continues after 2011 tornado

DUQUESNE, Mo. (AP) — The small southwestern Missouri town that was seriously damaged by the same tornado that hit Joplin in 2011 is rebuilding at a steady pace and will come out of the storm bigger and better, city officials said.

Mayor Denny White predicts that if Duquesne’s recovery continues at its current pace, “In a year or two, the only remnant of the tornado will be the lack of big trees.”

“I’m very optimistic and feel very good about the recovery here in Duquesne,” he said.

About 50 percent of the town on the eastern outskirts of Joplin was damaged by the May 22 tornado, which left at least eight people dead. City records indicate the town lost 250 houses and 45 businesses. The city clerk said the city has issued 86 permits for new homes and 32 for businesses, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/z8dgfL ).

“More expensive and nicer homes than there were to start with are being rebuilt,” White said. “We have a better class of houses going back. It will help the whole area as far as property values are concerned.”

White said many of the destroyed houses were built in the 1970s and were valued around $100,000. The new houses, he said, cost $150,000 to $200,000 to construct.

One of those who rebuilt was Gerald Ambrosius, whose home was destroyed.

“This house is much better than what we had before construction-wise,” he said. “That’s what we are seeing out here. People are building back bigger and better than before.”

He said the only thing he really misses is the trees, which were decimated by the tornado.

“I had 10 large oak trees,” he said. “We don’t have any trees outside now. With this wind, you can really notice the difference.”

Ken Ansley, the city’s building inspector, said he is amazed at “the speed at which the community is coming back.”

“We have a lot of activity going on. With two new schools coming, I think we’ll be back to 100 percent in two years,” Ansley said.

The town may have profited from Joplin’s decision to impose a 90-day moratorium on reconstruction after the tornado to give crews time to remove debris.

“We got 90 days out of the gate compared to Joplin,” Ansley said. “It can take about 90 days from getting the building permit for a house to occupancy. That was a huge advantage for us on coming back. We had people from Joplin come over and buy lots to build their house. They could not wait six months.”

Both Duquesne and Joplin follow the National Building Code established by the Building Officials Code Administrators International, but Joplin has a newer version of the code. Ansley said many homeowners choose to use the most up-to-date code.

“There are no safety issues involved here,” he said.

The rebuilding also was helped by Duquesne’s decision to replace septic systems with a sewer system that was nearly completed when the tornado hit. Homeowners had acre to two-acre lots because of the septic system, meaning landowners could subdivide the lots, Ansley said.

“We have made great strides,” the mayor said. “Every day I drive through the town and come out with a big smile on my face. It’s working. It’s coming back.”

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Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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