DIAMOND – Village of Diamond residents are still pulling together to try and return to normal six months after a tornado struck their tight-knit community, leaving many with no home to live in.
Today, six months to the day after the tornado hit, Michael and Robin Karpinski will move back into their home on Sterling Court in Sterling Estates.
"It's been a long six months," Robin said. "I can't wait."
On Nov. 17, an EF2 tornado – with faster than 120 mph – ripped through the area, damaging more than 200 homes and businesses. It was one of 24 tornadoes to touch down in Illinois that day during unseasonably warm weather.
The Karpinski family was home with five family members and Penny, their dog, when they heard the tornado sirens go off. Luckily, they have a tornado room built in their basement, where they went to ride out the storm that would change their lives.
"You could see it forming," Michael said the day of the tornado. "Then the obvious happened. It got quiet, then the sound of a freight train came."
The family – who at the time consisted of parents staying with them from Michigan while recuperating from surgery, and their daughter and son-in-law – all moved to a home on Lincoln Lake after the tornado.
Since that time, their parents have moved back to Michigan, and their daughter and son-in-law have moved to their own home, so just the couple will be returning Sunday to Sterling Estates.
"We're just delighted," Robin said. "There's no place like home."
The window that sat in the backyard, frame and all, the day of the tornado has been replaced along with the drywall and flooring that was damaged. The garage doors have been fixed, and there is no sign of the aftermath that was once there.
Robin said people talk to her like they won the golden ticket – they got their house remodeled due to the damage – but she said the remodel can't make up for the emotional toll.
"It took two weeks to go in and pack everything to move to the rental house," she said. "I'd just cry and cry, the neighbors were gone, everything was gone in just minutes."
She said now when she returns to the home, after all the progress that has been made, she still cries, but it is tears of joy this time.
Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said the weather has slowed down the repairs.
"Mother Nature has slowed us down, but we are hopeful we will have a good summer and fall, and that things will be back to the way it was by November or December," Kernc said. "People are coming in with more permits."
She said the village's priority has been to make sure everyone is returning to a safe home, whether they repair or rebuild.
The village has received $400,000 from the Illinois Department of Transportation and will be repairing roads that were affected, not by the tornado directly, but by large equipment brought in for clean up.
Around the corner from the Karpinski's house, Mark and Missy Adair stood that traumatic afternoon assessing the damage to their home: An entire wall was missing on the side of their home, leaving their garage and attic exposed to the elements.
Christmas decorations littered the yards around them after being sucked out of the exposed attic where they were stored.
It wasn't until Easter, though, that they realized the kid's Easter baskets also were missing. And that was the realization to Missy Adair that some things they might not discover are gone until they go to get them.
Mark Adair is the owner of Adair Development, a general contractor. He quickly went to work securing his garage and attic by placing a temporary wall. The wall is still not completed today.
They also fixed their roof, which was letting rain into their bedroom, but the home still has cracks in almost every wall although it's structurally sound.
"We started fixing three houses and the church, now we are working on more of the homes," Missy Adair said. "We want others to get into their home because we were able to stay in ours."