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Published May 22, 2012, 11:08 AM

Damage from Minneapolis tornado visible year later

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One year after a tornado hit north Minneapolis, killing two people and causing an estimated $80 million in damage, the damage along its three-mile-wide swath is still visible: tattered tarps on patchy roofs, broken and sagging chain-link fences, and empty space where there used to be homes, businesses and trees.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — One year after a tornado hit north Minneapolis, killing two people and causing an estimated $80 million in damage, the damage along its three-mile-wide swath is still visible: tattered tarps on patchy roofs, broken and sagging chain-link fences, and empty space where there used to be homes, businesses and trees.

Kelly Coborn said she still feels like she's entering a strange neighborhood when she drives to her home.

"Every time I get to James and 30th, it's like, 'Holy buckets, where am I?'" she told the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/L1X9j9).

Boulevards that were shaded before the tornado hit on the afternoon of May 22, 2011, are now dotted with saplings. A few yards still hold splintered remnants of tall oaks and ash trees. Coborn said insurance has helped to cover the $90,000 worth of damage to her property.

"There's more to do — lots of rebuilding," she said, "and we're not done, doggonit."

Mike Pierson runs Gear 4 Less at Penn and Broadway, where the tornado leveled trees and lifted garages off their slabs. He said the main difference he sees now is all the space from people and businesses that are gone.

A sandwich shop is vacant across the street. A liquor store that was looted after the storm was just torn down. Still, Pierson sees signs of slow improvement. The liquor store lot is being developed into an apartment building with retail space at street level.

"Just in a couple more years ... it's going to be a nice place to shop," he said. "It'll be back up to normal. Hopefully."

City officials say repairs have been made to the vast majority of homes in the area, with 197 of the 206 most-severely damaged having been repaired, or in the process of being repaired, demolished or pending demolition. In addition, 2,891 repair permits have been issued, with about $28.7 million worth of repairs made or under way.

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, 90 percent of insurance claims had been resolved by Jan. 1, amounting to $64 million in payments from auto, home and renters' insurance. More than 350 claims remain unresolved.

"Many (people) found out the hard way that having insurance can often mean the difference between financial security and financial disaster," Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said. "It was a sobering reminder how important it is to have proper coverage ... It is not a matter of if, but when and where the next tornado will touch down in Minnesota."

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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