NEW HOME: Donna Martin stands in the living room of her new home in Milton, Ky. A March 2, 2012, tornado destroyed Ron and Donna Martin’s house. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
NEW HOME: Donna Martin stands in the living room of her new home in Milton, Ky. A March 2, 2012, tornado destroyed Ron and Donna Martin’s house. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Twisted trees near their new house in Milton, Ky., serve as a reminder of just how far the homeowners have come since a tornado destroyed their home and property on March 2, 2012.

At first, Donna Martin and her husband, Ron, thought storms rolling across Indiana and Kentucky would be like any other storm system that had come through the area before.

There were strong winds and heavy rain, yet it was television warnings that made the Martins pay a little more attention than usual.

They watched radar reports of the storms headed toward the area where they lived on Rogers Road. Neighbors called to offer a safe place from the weather in their basement should the Martins want to come over.

"They'd always call us," Donna said. "We don't know why (we went that time)."

It was the first time the couple had ever taken their neighbors up on the offer to use their home for shelter in all the years they'd offered.

"(Ron) said something just doesn't sound right," she said.

Even though Donna didn't want to leave the couple's pets, the couple finally decided it was time to seek shelter elsewhere - just in case.

The tornadoes crossed the Ohio River from Indiana and hit Trimble County less than 30 minutes after they sought refuge at their neighbor's home.

Donna doesn't remember hearing the tornado while in the basement. She never saw the funnel clouds moving toward them. But it was still closer than she ever hoped to be to a tornado.

"I hope that's the last one I have to (witness)," she said.

The Martins' two-story home that they had left behind less than an hour before had sustained significant damage from what building inspectors determined to be 170 mile-an-hour winds. Old and new barns, as well as the couple's garage and vehicles, had extensive damage.

"No one else's place (on Rogers Road) was touched but ours," she said. "We're in the wide open right here, but (the tornado) knows no bounds. We just got picked."

The day after the storms, the Martins learned their home was uninhabitable because of the damage. The house's walls were bowed, and inspectors believed the house had been picked up and set back down because of separation and cracks in the foundation. The front of the old farmhouse had the most damage with the ceilings toppled in and insulation everywhere, but the back of the home didn't seem to be touched.

An old shed survived the storm without damage when newer buildings on the property had been ripped to the ground. The Martins planned to tear the old wooden shed down many times, but had never gotten around to it.

"It was the oldest, and it was going to stay," she said of the building.

The couple's pets that were inside the home were unharmed from the storm.

"Other than being traumatized, they were fine," Donna said.

The deck connected to the house was still intact without much damage. Two china cabinets located in the home weren't damaged either.

"Not a piece of china was moved," Donna said. "They took our belongings out and nothing was touched (or damaged)."

Even though most of the items inside the home were okay, insulation covered everything from the furniture to clothes. Restoration crews sent by the Martins' insurance company took the contents of the home, cleaned or dry-cleaned the items and put everything in storage.

Then the couple had to make the decision whether to repair the damaged structure or to rebuild.

"They said they could build it back better and cheaper than redoing the other (house)," Donna said.

So, the couple moved into a rental house near Pendleton while a new home was built. The Martins looked through several different plans before deciding on a one-story home with a full basement - the top specification Donna had for the new home following the tornado.

Almost six months after the tornado, the couple moved into their new home - at the same location - on Rogers Road. Other buildings had also been replaced since the tornado, and the deck from the former house had been expanded to connect to the new house. Their insurance replaced vehicles that had been totaled during the tornado.

The only thing left to do a year after the tornado is make the new house feel more like home. Movers returned the Martins' furniture to their new home, but some small items and photos remain in marked boxes in the garage.

Fences need to be repaired from where the tornado destroyed them. The Martins plan to clear construction remnants and tornado debris over a hill at the back of their property later this year.

"We still have a lot of clean-up this summer," Donna said.

With a few exceptions, life has returned to normal for the Martins a year after the day that changed their lives. But instead of dwelling about what happened a year ago, March 2, 2013, was just a day like any other on Rogers Road.