ONE YEAR AFTER THE STORM
Friends: The wind beneath their wings
Lee Bottom Flying Field recovery has been slow
Saturday, March 02, 2013 6:00 AM
The long road to repair what was left following the March 2012 tornadoes takes place little by little at Lee Bottom Flying Field, but several of the buildings still show damage a year later.
Ginger and Rich Davidson say they have learned a difficult lesson ... Understand your insurance policy, they caution. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
Owners Rich and Ginger Davidson began the clean-up process the day after the tornadoes, and Lee Bottom opened to air traffic less than a week after the storms. Yet the process to rebuild the hangar, shop, home and other structures - plus replacing the everyday items - hasn't been as quick.
"Things have not progressed here very well," Rich said.
The past year would have been difficult enough rebuilding a business and home, yet several other obstacles slowed the rebuilding process. A month after the tornado's destruction, Ginger found out she had contracted Lyme disease from a tick during the clean-up process. In May, Rich took a new job that had him away from home for months at a time.
The couple also was one of several Jefferson County families that had been tied up with issues from the health department regarding septic systems. A lot of time had been dedicated to helping their neighbors with those issues as well, Rich said.
On top of everything else, insurance hasn't been the easiest to deal with either.
"We had just enough insurance," Rich said, but the policies still won't cover everything that was lost on March 2.
The Davidsons learned difficult lessons about what their policy actually covered during one of the worst times at the flying field, yet they use the experience to warn others in hopes someone else will be aware.
"I would beg people to know their insurance policy," Rich said. "Pull out your policy and see how it works."
Even with all the difficulties throughout the last year, the Davidsons found a few positives over the last year.
They learned that several local community organizations were ready to help at a moment's notice. Several firefighters and area churches helped the couple with clean-up or provided items to help in the clean-up process.
"A lot of people came from all over," Rich said. "That really helped a lot."
The Davidsons' extended network of friends in the aviation world also helped with the rebuilding process through the annual fly-in event at Lee Bottom Flying Field in September.
The annual event has hosted hundreds of planes from around the United States and Canada for the last 16 years, but the Davidsons thought they might have to cancel the event.
Instead of canceling the fly-in, the event turned into a fundraiser for the flying field with the $100 Hamburger Fly-In.
"We had more than we expected," Ginger said.
Some of the pilots who flew in for the annual event hadn't realized the area had been destroyed by the tornadoes, but they showed their support for the rebuilding process.
"There's a lot of people who like this place and want it to stay," Rich said.
And the Davidsons do plan to rebuild, but there's a lot of work that has to be done.
The farmhouse, which was built in the 1800s, still has billboard-type tarps to help keep the elements from causing even more damage. The house's age and additions throughout the years make rebuilding even more of an issue, and it was a toss-up whether to bulldoze or rebuild at times.
"If it had been blown away, it might have been easier," Ginger said.
They started major repairs on the home last month.
"I feel like all the work I've done here (since taking ownership of the flying field) was thrown out the door," Ginger said. "It's been very hard to go from here because everything has to be repaired or replaced."
With the rebuilding process, each step takes a lot of thought as to what direction the Davidsons want Lee Bottom Flying Field to move in the future.
The couple had discussed possible expansions to the business before the March tornadoes, and now they have a chance to make those ideas become reality.
"They're just fitting us in here and there," Rich said of the rebuilding process. "We've always heard it takes two years to get back to normal."