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Business owner remembers the clean up after the tornado

Posted by wlpo on April 20, 2014

10 years after a tornado destroyed homes and businesses in Utica the village has new homes, businesses and the realigned Route 178. The average tourist probably doesn’t realized what’s missing.

Holland’s Utica Garage had been on Mill Street for years until April 20, 2004. The shop’s owner, Dennis Holland, closed and went home about 15 minutes before a tornado would leave his building in shambles.

The neighboring Utica Village building came down on his garage, the roof collapsed and one of the walls was gone. Holland, his sons and friends worked late into the night removing valuables. A friend stayed overnight in the shop to protect it from looters.

FEMA workers and even then Governor Rod Blagojevich arrived in the hours after the tornado but Holland says they didn’t really seem like they knew what they were doing. He credits the late Mayor Fred Esmond for helping the village.  He says it’s a sad thing to see your business go down in shambles but he didn’t expect any help rebuilding.

Holland wasn’t able to rebuild on his property which was on the 100-year-flood plain. He says he would have been required to raise his building seven feet and by that time there wouldn’t be much room left for a safety lane or garage.  He ended up building a shop on his land in Deer Park Township. His property was eventually bought by the village and is used for parking.

An interview with Holland is available at the WLPO AM and FM news page.

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