Contractors Flock To Joplin, Mo., To Find Work

In Joplin, Missouri, victims of the tornado are beginning to put their lives back together. Insurance companies are already making visits and paying homeowners for their losses. City officials are making temporary contractors obtain licenses to cut down on fraud.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

In America's Midwest, it was another night of severe weather. Tornados and thunderstorms struck Illinois, Indiana and Missouri. The storms caused property damage, but there are no reports of anyone killed. Cleanup continues in Joplin, Missouri after last Sunday's very deadly tornado. And as the initial shock begins to wear off, the reality of what it will take to rebuild is setting in.

NPR's Sonari Glinton is in Joplin, and filed this report.

SONARI GLINTON: Shawn Trejo and his wife Renee bought their first house just four years ago. They were very young, very newly married and very, very happy.

Mr. SHAWN TREJO: When we got the keys, me and my wife, we went outside and yelled. You know, we had champagne, thought of what things we were going to buy - what kind of furniture, what color we were going to paint the walls. And now, you know, all that's gone.

GLINTON: Now Trejo and his wife are waiting for the insurance adjustor to inspect their home and tell them what it's worth.

Mr. MIKE YORK (American Family Insurance): The fact that you're standing tells me you're OK. How about the rest of the family?

Ms. RENEE TREJO: Oh, yeah.

Mr. TREJO: Everybody's fine.

Mr. YORK: OK. Now...

GLINTON: Mike York is with American Family Insurance, one of the many insurance companies that have set up shop in Joplin to process claims for families like the Trejos. Today, he's exploring what's left of their home.

Mr. YORK: I just need to let everyone know, as we go through the house, it is uninhabitable, and the ceiling is falling in. So if I think there's a danger or something, we need to back out.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GLINTON: The Trejos are lucky. No one in their family was hurt, and even though their home is still standing...

Mr. YORK: We're very doubtful that any content (unintelligible) would be salvageable at this point.

GLINTON: By the end of the day, York and American Family will write a check to the Trejos and their mortgage company. The Trejos will get the maximum amount their policy allows for their home and its contents.

Mr. YORK: My intent is to document the damage to you, and then cancel and fulfill our policy agreement with you.

GLINTON: If the Trejos want to rebuild, they will have many workers to choose from. A lot of people have come to Joplin from all over the country, not just to volunteer, but to find work. John Hobson and his father specialize in tree removal.

Mr. JOHN HOBSON: Climb them, we cut them down, clear lots. We've got bobcats and (unintelligible), stuff like that.

GLINTON: Hobson and his dad are from Alabama.

Mr. HOBSON: We follow hurricanes and tornadoes. And we just come out to check out the scenery and try to work.

GLINTON: I mean, do you charge for your services or...

Mr. HOBSON: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. We do charge. You know, reasonable pricing, but, yes, we do have to charge.

GLINTON: Officials in Joplin are worried about the number of workers who are already in town offering their services. Rob O'Brian heads the local chamber of commerce.

Mr. ROB O'BRIAN (Joplin Chamber of Commerce): Any time there is a disaster in any community, there are people, unfortunately, who want to take advantage of that.

GLINTON: The city is already making temporary contractors obtain licenses to cut down on potential fraud and abuse. O'Brian says even at this point, when Joplin is in search-and-rescue mode, it's important to think about the economic health of the city.

Mr. O'BRIAN: In places, in communities where there have been major disasters like this, there - they find two and three years down the road that some businesses just never recover. They hang on for a while, but then they just keep dropping off. They just can't sustain that. And that's why we think it's very important to get a good foundation right now.

GLINTON: While city leaders are trying to figure out the future of Joplin, people like insurance adjustor Mike York are helping residents with the immediate.

Mr. YORK: All right. Y'all ready to go in?

Ms. LINDA CONROW: Let's go.

Mr. YORK: OK.

GLINTON: After inspection, York proclaims Linda Conrow's home a total loss.

Ms. CONROW: It's hard to sort through this and determine what's worth picking up and what's - you just need to leave and go on.

GLINTON: Conrow says the tornado has made her philosophical.

Ms. CONROW: I had this sign in my utility room that says: simplify. I had it with a bunch of other junk. And I thought: How many sets of sheets do you need? How many towels do you need? And so, yes, as I move on, I'm going to simplify.

GLINTON: Conrow says she's survived all manner of things: divorce, single motherhood, cancer. She says she'll survive this, too, and so will her city.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News Joplin.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.