Tornado Updates – Finished Exterior: A Progression of Pics

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My tornado memoir – “Twisted” was released on 05/22/12! click here for more details, or to purchase!
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So, I’ll be completely without a kitchen for a little while now, having removed *everything* but the appliances, in order to prepare for the cabinet making.

Not the best situation for a food blogger, so… rather than let this blog go stale, I’ll take the time to post repair/renovation tornado updates! Today: The exterior!

Now, the house wasn’t the most gorgeous thing ever BEFORE the tornado, but hey – it had a solid roof, and the price was right. After the tornado hit, and left us with such huge repairs – a whole new roof, all new windows, repairing/painting the stucco, etc? Oh hell yes, we’ll use it as an excuse to make some changes.

Let’s start with the front of the house:


The day we bought the house. Notice all those trees in the background? They’re not in the next photo 🙁


This was right after the tornado. The actual exterior of the front didn’t get too much damage, but the 3 arborvitae trees were ripped up. We initially tried to save them, wrestling them back into place – but they were goners.


New roof, trees taken down… but nothing else fixed.


All done! My husband painted the stucco a pale grey-blue and the brickwork a medium blue, to match the new roof. I painted the bricks with dark grey paint on a sponge, to let bring some depth to the brickwork and make it match the roof. Windows replaced, new trim.

The smashed up rock pieces that made up the two flower beds up front were taken out and replaced with retaining brick walls. The 3 trees were more completely removed, and replaced with juniper bushes. We dug up a bit of the ground to create a flower bed border up the sides of the sidewalk, and in front of the brick walls. We planted many blue flower bulbs, many of which were courtesy of a friend in the local geek community.


Corner view, the day we bought the house.


The old upper deck had been smashed by several flying trees (!!!), so we replaced it with a lighter, more open design. The cats LOVE this, as it lets a lot more light into “their” bedroom. Since this photo was taken, the patio door upstairs has also been trimmed to match the windows.

Now, the back yard!


The day we bought the house. It was a huge deck, but that weird “horse barn” that enclosed the stairway to the basement was weird, and rendered most of the deck unusable and awkward.


After the tree was removed from the deck and house, piece by piece. The tarp on the right is where the tree initially landed on the house (right above the kitchen), punching a hole in the ceiling before BOUNCING OFF and landing over to the right. It would be about 3 weeks before we had a new roof!


After the deck and porch were removed. The porch had been so smashed in, it wasn’t even salvageable! 🙁


New roof! By this time, we had to focus on so many other things, the yard started to grow over a bit. We had the floor of the old porch balancing over the stairway to the basement – SO unsafe. I’m so glad it held up as long as it did, with no one getting injured!


Luckily for us, one of our friends used to own a landscaping company, and still had most of his equipment. Together with my husband, they removed several dump trucks worth of debris – both from the tornado, and stuff that had apparently been dumped under the deck before it had been built.

At one point, they pulled out a rolled up rug. Knowing the neighborhood – and stories we’d heard about the previous owner – we were kind of expecting to find a dead body in it. Thankfully, there was not.


Peter and my husband leveled the ground before adding sand and gravel, tamping that all down… several of us laid the brick patio, and the walls.


After a long, hot (100+ degree!) summer, we finally had a new patio! Aside from the heat, the heatstroke I ended up with, and the weight of those damn bricks, it was actually kind of fun – like badass adult legos!


Another view of the new patio and deck.


As bizarre as it is to say it, this is my favorite photo from the whole ordeal. Just surreal to see that tree – 100+ years old – just ripped up like it was nothing, roots and all. Such a sad photo, but such a great representation of just how screwed up this whole thing was.

The lumber from that tree has been milled down and is being dried, and will be used to rebuild our kitchen. Not only being resourceful, I see it kind of like putting the head of one of your enemies up on display, you know? “This is what we do to trees that attack our house!”


The new view from above.

So, there you have it! We still have a bit of work – painting the brick chimneys on bother the house and garage, the garage needs a second coat of paint, we need to stain the new decks and do some landscaping… but by and large, this is done. It’ll be nice to host our friends next summer – the new backyard is perfect for BBQ parties!

NONE of this would have been possible without the insane amount of help we had from our friends, both old and new. As misanthropic and antisocial as both my husband and I are… we love our friends, and we are so very proud to be part of such an amazing local geek/nerd community.

When word got out that we’d been hit, people really rallied around us. The first of our friends showed up almost immediately with hugs, water, and dried fruit (knowing we wouldn’t be even thinking of food at that point), and the support was just… breathtaking. For some, it was hours upon hours of backbreaking labor. For others, it was donations… and for others, it was making sure that we stayed sane. We appreciated all of it, more than we can ever articulate. I’d like to say some thank yous…

Anime Twin Cities, Mark, Heather, Karen, Barb, Jeanne & John, Jason, Barbara, Carrie, Amy, Tom, Sarah, Dave, and all of the strangers who found us online.. thank you for your generous donations. Between not being insured for 6 weeks of living expenses for an unlivable house, the car not being insured for a tree landing on it, and blowing past our insurance ceiling with $30,000+ in damages beyond it… we really, really appreciate it. Thank you.

Mark and Heather, you braved the warzone the day of the tornado to come and make sure we stayed sane. Thank you.

Peter, Jessica, Tara, Tom, Jenn, Todd, Pat, Danielle, Jacob, Jory, John, David, Carrie, Otha, and Kevin for the immense amount of work, dismantling the deck and tree, hauling it all out, and helping with the rebuild of the patio and deck. It seemed like an insurmountable task – there was SO much rubble… SO much tree… but you guys stuck it out. Thank you so, so very much.

Shawn, for treating us out to X:Men: First Class, Katie for the loan of “Krrsh”, and Tom, for putting a missed episode of House onto DVD for us. Sanity savers, and a break from the chaos – we really appreciate it!

Dave and Char, for the loan of a car when our ONE remaining car died on us. Oh, and for actually delivering it to us, even though you guys are super busy. Thank you SO much, you were life savers!

Katrina and John, for the loan of the compactor.

Alicia, for the iris bulbs. Thank you so very much, not only for the bulbs, but for your expertise with the flowers. With all of the loss of plant life – even all of the grass in the back yard – I can’t wait for those first few bursts of colorful life to pop up next spring!

Peter… man, where do we even start? You’re a rockstar.

Man, I hope I’m not missing anyone. So many people, so much generosity to keep track of. Thank you all so much.

While it’s been backbreaking work and a LOT of new skills to learn, it’s nice to know that we’re equipped with that sort of knowledge and experience… it’ll come in handy when the time comes for US to step up to the plate. We’re very much looking forward to “paying it forward”, though we really hope that natural disasters stay FAR away from our friends, loved ones, and communities.

On the afternoon of May 22, 2011, North Minneapolis was devastated by a tornado. Twisted recounts the Porters’ first 11 months, post disaster. Rebuilding their house, working around the challenges presented by inadequate insurance coverage. Frustration at repeated bouts of incompetence and greed from their city officials. Dealing with issues such as loss of control, logistics, change, and over-stimulation, as two adults with Aspergers.

Subjects covered include: Opportunistic “Vultures”, gawkers, new friendships, a bizarre gingerbread house, unique decisions made with the rebuild – including an internet-famous kitchen backsplash, “Tornado Claus”, contractor drama, water balloons, DIY design and work, music, sensory overload, and details on how to cook jambalaya for almost 300 people, in the parking lot of a funeral home… should you ever find yourself in the position to do so. Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

2 thoughts on “Tornado Updates – Finished Exterior: A Progression of Pics

  1. I really liked the idea you guys had using the pavers in the back. The stairwell going down gives it a really nice look in the way you separated the two areas is inspiring. I might use this in my own yard, seeing as how I have a similar type of setup.

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