Residents of Kokomo, Indiana began the daunting task a couple weeks ago of cleaning up and putting the pieces of their lives back together after eight tornadoes touched down in and around the Howard County area. The largest of the tornadoes registered as an EF-3 with peak winds coming in at 151 miles-per-hour. The fact there were no fatalities and only a handful of minor injuries is a testament to the quick-acting residents of Kokomo.
Considering the extensive damage, including over 1,000 homes and business destroyed or damaged, the community has come together and is well underway in the rebuilding process. I was able to visit with two courses in Kokomo which were impacted by the tornadoes.
I first met with 14-year GCSAA member and Chippendale Golf Club superintendent Kevin Custis. I met Kevin at what remained of his maintenance facility as he walked me through the heavily-damaged building. The entire north half of the structure had been ripped from the foundation and was displaced as the tornado moved through the property. As the structure came down, parts of the roof and joists collapsed on parked equipment creating additional damage and challenges for Kevin. The course itself also received substantial damage as over 40 trees were damaged or uprooted during the day's events.
|The maintenance facility at Chippendale Golf Club.|
Kevin and his small staff have already made great strides in the clean up effort and reopened the golf course after only one day, which is extraordinary given the current condition of his facility and the surrounding area. As we toured the golf course, Kevin was in high spirits and was thankful there was not more damage to the course as the twister narrowly avoided a handful of greens and tees.
|The tornado overturned and displaced many pieces of equipment.|
Following Kevin's visit I met with 31-year GCSAA member and Kokomo Country Club superintendent Larry Wilk. Larry reported he and his crew are all doing well following the horrific tornadoes. The course was back open after being closed for the ten days following the storms. Larry lost roughly 200 trees concentrated in a handful of areas around the course. Unfortunately, many of the trees were key trees on the property which helped shape holes and screen the practice facility. The majority of large cleanup has been completed, however, there are many trees which will need additional attention. Larry and his crew will continue the trimming and removal throughout the fall and winter, and will assess which trees are healthy and safe enough to remain. Larry has also begun to seed rough areas which were damaged by the storm, consisting of numerous acres throughout the property. Many greens and tees were also damaged as the twister tore through the property, moving directly over various complexes. Larry and the crew will also plug, sod and seed the affected areas.
|A handful of the 100's of trees lost at Kokomo Country Club.|
The course was also without power for seven days, during which time Larry did not have access to his irrigation system. The course did receive a small rain shower the day of the storm, which helped in the immediate few days after the tornado, however, there are still many fairways recovering from drought conditions. The Kokomo Country Club clubhouse also sustained damage, which was mainly to the HVAC systems and pool facilities. As with Chippendale Golf Club, no major damage occurred to any crew members home or property.
Both courses are on their way to recovery with the leadership of both Kevin and Larry. Many members of the community lost their homes and possessions which will take a much longer to recover from. Speaking with both Larry and Kevin, the community has come together to help those in need, and support from family and friends has been vital to the recovery process.