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Hit hard in past, Limon sending aid, water

Town reminded of devastating storm in 1990

Published March 30, 2007 at midnight

The town of Limon, hit by a devastating tornado in 1990, will send three employees, two dump trucks and a pickup truck to Holly this morning.

Local businesses and the Limon Chamber of Commerce are donating 40 cases of bottled water.

"I feel for them," Limon Mayor Del Beattie said. "I saw some of the pictures - they're not pretty."

On June 6, 1990, a tornado hit downtown Limon, then a town of 1,800, with winds of up to 200 mph.

No one was killed, but 80 percent of the businesses were destroyed, along with the town hall. Out of the 750 homes and trailers in Limon, 228 were damaged. Limon took about a week to clean up, then spent all summer demolishing buildings and clearing debris, according to Joe Kiely, town administrator.

It took another three to six months to start rebuilding, including replacing the town hall and a fire station. An estimated 350 building permits were pulled in Limon after the tornado.

A prison opened in Limon around the time the tornado hit, which provided employment. Since then, the town's population has grown to about 2,400, with new truck stops being added and expanded, and motels being built.

"The town was rebuilt," said Bruce Hoffman, former owner of Hoffman's Drugs and Tru-Value Hardware store. "It's much nicer now than it probably would have been if it was up to the local community to rebuild, restore and refurbish. God came along and tore out the old buildings and a lot of the weaker structures."

While most Limon residents and officials were reluctant to give advice to people in Holly, just 150 miles away, they did offer some words of wisdom.

"I'm sure they will have an army of volunteers," Beattie said. "If they can have somebody who can synchronize their work and keep them busy, that would allow the volunteers to feel good about what they're doing and the people that need their help will get it."

Kiely said it's important to involve the entire community in the rebuilding and planning process.

"The hardest part of all of this is the need to get back to normal is very strong in the first two to three months, but there isn't any normal," he said. "A tornado causes such change in the community that when you rebuild, it's different, it's just going to be different."

Jan Vratil was a third-grade teacher in Limon in 1990. School was out for summer break, so she was on her farm. She and her husband, both trained as emergency medical technicians, went into town after the tornado hit.

"Just be thankful for everyone that survived. You can always rebuild the buildings," she said. "Take things one day at a time - things take a lot longer than you think but they do rebuild. People come together and are so supportive."

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