Altus_Three months after winds so powerful and destructive ripped through southeast Altus that residents thought it was a tornado, businesses are still working to recover from the damage. The Coyote Ridge Apartments were among the structures hit the hardest. Every one of its units suffered damage, a two-story building collapsed, and nearly 70 people were forced to relocate. After a lot of work and financial investment, the apartments are almost ready to re-open.
In June, the destruction was so bad that it looked like a bomb had gone off. Pieces of the roof were torn to pieces, and peoples belongings were sucked out of their apartments and scattered everywhere. June 5 was a milestone for Coyote Ridge. The apartments had just finished a one-year remodeling project and people were ready to move in. Contractor Mark Hedrick had just sent an email to the owner of the building to let him know that construction was finished, and his complex was 100% full. That all changed when less than two hours later - the storm hit. Hedrick had to call the owner back.
"When I received that call, it dropped me to my knees, emotionally," said owner David Wehrle. "We had invested so much in it." All of the blood, sweat, and tears that had gone into turning Coyote Ridge into a family friendly community were wiped away by mother nature. "I've been through hurricanes, I've been through a lot of stuff and it was terrible," said Wehrle. "The buildings had collapsed. The roofs were gone. People's lives were shattered."
Wehrle says his tenants wanted to come back, and it was enough to convince him to rebuild. "Every building has new roofs and new structures. We have new walls. We even had to take one of the buildings from two stories to one story," he said. More than $1 million later, Coyote Ridge has new plumbing, electrical wiring, and air conditioners. "We lost 19 large two-ton air units," said Wehrle. "We can't even find them - the storm blew them away somewhere."
As the reconstruction on the complex nears completion, Wehrle is optimistic that those who said they wanted to return, will. He says they were the driving force behind the project. "They told us they chose to live here. It was a safe community," he said. "Honestly, we enjoyed coming out here and seeing a group of 15 or 20 kids playing together, and the parents out in common areas talking and chatting."
A few have already moved back in to completed apartments. Wehrle says he hopes to have the others ready to rent within the next couple of weeks. The City of Altus is still in the process of trying to recoup some damage costs from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). Individual assistance was not approved by the federal government, so businesses and homeowners were not eligible for government financial assistance.