Thanksgiving at home is out of the question this year for Richard and Patricia Kozlowski. Their house won't look the same at least until Christmas, and then again, maybe not ever.
They plan to eat out. A tornado five weeks ago intervened in their plans for the traditional family meal at home. Their house is one of several that was beaten and torn by winds as high as 100 mph, which did property damage totaling some $15 million around their Reisterstown neighborhood in northwest Baltimore County.
The main contractor and the insurance company came through to restore their house on Glyndon Drive to what it was, Richard Kozlowski said, though "the trees are gone," torn out by the wind. And, although most of the debris has been cleared, he said, "the grass has so many nails and glass in it I don't think anyone will be able to run around in it barefoot for a couple of years."
The 108 families who needed disaster-relief assistance following the brief, but violent storm Oct. 18 have either returned home, found temporary quarters elsewhere or resettled permanently, said Mike Ritter, the Red Cross assistant director for emergency services.
Some are waiting to move back into the Chartley Apartments, across the street from the Kozlowskis' house on Glyndon Drive, he said. Others have moved away for good. And four people are still staying in motels, supported by the Red Cross.
Since the tornado that ripped roofs and wall sections off the apartment complex and damaged nearby houses, workers have restored most of the outer shells of what was lost. The brighter new bricks form a clear zig-zag line in the apartment walls that were rebuilt from ruins. The whir of machines and sound of radio rock music wafts from the uncovered windows of restored buildings where workers re-create the apartments within.
Several of the houses across the street appear fully restored on the outside. And one that was once a ranch has been reconstructed as a Cape Cod.
Peggy Gallagher, however, has chosen to rebuild from the inside out. Outside, boards still cover some of the damage and tar paper still shows through where winds ripped away the siding. But the inside work is progressing. Workers thumped upstairs as she explained that they were laying a new surface on a floor embedded with glass and installing new sheet rock in the walls. That's where flying debris smashed a hole in her roof.
After long deliberation over the type and color of the new exterior siding, Gallagher chose white, she said, because, "my children all grew up here, and they want it to look the same."
As did many of her neighbors, Gallagher returned to her house after spending several nights away with family, while workers made her house fit to live in again. But the living room is still too cluttered for entertaining. She plans to spend Thanksgiving at her daughter's house. "First time I haven't had Thanksgiving dinner here in probably 23 years," she said, which is as long as the family has lived there.
A neighbor, Josephine Noelte, also plans to spend tomorrow with her daughter, who lives 10 minutes away. For weeks, her house has been comfortable enough to live in, she said. "It's all right. It's just that it's a mess." The furniture and walls inside are still gashed from flying glass shards.
Her lawn is clean and green except for a seeded patch of dirt. "This was a big tree; you couldn't see across the street," she said. But the wind uprooted it, and the view is clear.
Lining up the contractors and satisfying the insurance company's requirements to pay them has been "nerve-shattering," she said, especially coming hard upon the death of her husband earlier.
In the first few days after the disasters, contractors and sub-contractors knocked at her door offering their services and prices. But she settled on the same contractor who put on a new roof four years ago, the same one that was ruined by the tornado. All the outside work is supposed to be finished next week.
Noelte's daughter, Marlene Harman, said the house will look the same "in about 30 years -- when the trees grow back."