Flora Taylor and her family are caught between a broken wooden beam and the hard place they were put in by the March 12 microburst that hit Lawrence.
Her son's bedroom floor sags. Below that, splintered wood braced by two temporary supports holds up the ceiling of the living room in her split-level house in the 2600 block of Bonanza Street in southeast Law-rence.
Strong winds from the microburst shook the home and eventually caused the damage. Though a city inspector declared the house unsafe for habitation, the family has returned to it and is living there at its own risk.
"I heard something sound like a freight train. I ran upstairs to get the kids to come downstairs. By the time we got downstairs, it was over with and this was split in two," Taylor said, pointing to the broken beam.
American Family Insurance denied her claim to repair or replace the beam because an engineer said the beam was not large enough to properly support the weight of the nearly 30-year-old home.
The beam, a structural support, was part of the home's original construction. Taylor said now-retired builder Russell Jones constructed the home. They have yet to talk to him about their situation.
But Jones, who has been out of the business 20 years, told the Journal-World he had built many homes in Lawrence and had never heard of a similar problem.
Taylor's family moved into the new home in May 1977. City files show the home had no previous structural issues, said Barry Walthall, the city's building safety manager. Walthall said the city did building inspections in the 1970s, but the records weren't kept so it isn't clear what happened exactly with the initial inspections of the Taylor home.
The insurance company offered Taylor a $1,700 check to pay for cosmetic work, such as drywall repair, after the beam is fixed. One Lawrence remodeling company gave her a $10,350 estimate to jack up the floor, install a double 2- by 14-inch beam and perform other reconstruction.
"I just figured when you pay the insurance, then something like this happens, they automatically are supposed to be taking care of it," Taylor said.
Without insurance reimbursement, Taylor said, the repair costs are too much for her to shoulder. She lives on $1,100 in monthly disability benefits she receives because she injured her back in 1997 while working at Hallmark Cards.
It's been a rough year for the family.
Taylor's cousin, Cyrese Powell, and Powell's granddaughter evacuated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina last year, and are now living with Taylor in the unsafe house. Cyrese Powell found a night job at Holiday Inn Express.
Also in the home are two of Taylor's children, ages 12 and 17, and her 24-year-old son Reuben Turner.
Taylor has four adult children and two adult foster children living in Lawrence but not in the damaged property.
After he declared the home unfit on March 27, a city inspector warned the family and placed a red "Unsafe" notice on the front door.
Until two weeks ago, Taylor and most of the family now in the house lived with Taylor's sister. But son Reuben Turner, a Johnson County Community College student, never left the damaged family home because he needed his computer and space to complete his homework, he said.
The rest of the family moved back into the home because Taylor could no longer afford to pay the bills for her empty house and help with her sister's bills.
Now, they are crammed into the home mostly unable to use the second floor because of the broken structural beam
Taylor, Powell and Powell's granddaughter share the king-size bed in the south bedroom. Taylor's two younger sons sleep on the floor in her bedroom. Turner sleeps upstairs on a sagging floor.
The family complained to the Kansas Insurance Department about the situation but found no help. Instead, it received a letter May 15 that called the situation a dispute of facts with American Family Insurance that would need to be settled by a court.
The family can file a lawsuit or also try to pursue legal action against the builder, according to the letter to the family from M.J. Grover, of the insurance department.
Powell said they also were waiting to hear from the Consumer Protection Division of Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline's office.
Kline spokesman Jan Lunsford said Tuesday the office did not acknowledge or comment on any possible ongoing investigations.
The storm damage is not evident from the outside of the home.
Most of the microburst damage was from trees blown onto homes and buildings. Kansas University buildings sustained about $6 million in mostly roof damage, and several are still under repair.
As Taylor and her family wait for their next move, she said dealings with her insurance company had frustrated her the most.
"I've been paying them all of these years, and I don't know nothing about the way people build houses," she said.
March 12, 2006, Storm
Related content for the storm
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- Insurance documents from the Taylors' claim (pdf)
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- Home and its owner will persevere after storm (04-05-06)
- 6News video: Local family continues to clean up storm aftermath (03-30-06)
- Businesses, residents picking up pieces after microburst (03-31-06)
- Spring weddings out at KU chapel (03-29-06)
- 6News video: Storm alters wedding plans (03-21-06)
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- Tower at KU on way down (03-22-06)
- Pregnant storm victim thankful for aid (03-21-06)
- 6News video: Bishop Seabury students and alum help local family cleanup from storm (03-16-06)
- 6News video: Hundreds of city employees continue to collect storm debris (03-16-06)
- 6News video: South Park receives needed attention (03-16-06)
- 6News video: Historic downtown church labled a precaution from storm damage (03-16-06)
- Checkers security camera footage of the March 12 storms (03-16-06)
- 6News video: Several buildings in Lawrence declared unsafe to live or work
- 6News video: Historic headstones damaged by storm in Oak Hill Cemetery
- 6News video: Ten-year-old captures live footage of microburst
- Forecast for rain prompts fast repairs (03-16-06)
- Safety concerns lead to re-evacuation (03-16-06)
- 6News video: Tornado sirens ring loud and clear during testing (03-14-06)
- 6News video: State government plans for KU repair cost (03-14-06)
- 6News video: Several Lawrence parks and cemeteries hit hard by storm (03-14-06)
- What does it take to sound sirens? (03-15-06)
- Tuesday's warning was only a test
- Sebelius and Hemenway press conference, part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
- March 12 Storm: Aftermath
- Storm damage
- Reader photos: Storm damage
- Interactive storm damage map