SUFFOLK, Va. - It's been one year since since a tornado destroyed dozens ofhomes and businesses in Suffolk. Hundreds more buildings weredamaged.
Now, the majority of families have returned home. Shops are onceagain open for business.
Though, some are still struggling to regain what they lost.
Craig Parker told WAVY.com, "I get discouraged, I getdiscouraged a whole lot."
Andriana Freeman said, "I never in my wildest dreams would haveimagined it would have taken this long to get my houserepaired."
It's been a long, difficult year.
Tim Davis with Suffolk's Community Development Division said,"After the tornado passed, It was over $23 Million in damage. Thiscity had never seen anything close to that."
According to Davis, 50 buildings were destroyed. Another 100 hadmajor damage. An additional 250 had minor damage.
Craig Parker's Driver Variety store was leveled a year ago.
He talked with WAVY.com from a chair in front of an empty space,once filled by his family's business since 1910.
"It's been part of you for a long time and all of a sudden youdon't have it anymore. It hurts to look at it," Parkerexplained.
Parker said he expected to be back in business within a fewmonths after the storm. In the beginning he said, things lookedpromising since his insurance company paid initial claims.
"They paid me on the lost and damaged items in the store, but Ihaven't got anything on the building," he said.
Parker has an attorney fighting to get the store rebuilt.
Homeowner, Andriana Freeman is also in a battle.
"It's just a nightmare. We've tried to settle, but each andevery time the insurance company fights me things," she said.
At first glance, her home is beautiful. But she said there arestill problems, a cracked window - stains from water leaking intothe house. Her contractor stopped making repairs because ofnonpayment. Freeman said the insurance company, Augusta Mutual ofStaunton, Virginia, won't provide the amount of money she needs torestore her home. Freeman said she will not sign the agreementAugust Mutual offered because it is not enough.
"We're going to court. The insurance company has not paid thecontractor, and the contractor wants to sue me," Freeman said.
Representatives from Augusta Mutual never answered WAVY.com'srequests for information. However, the company filed a petitionwith Circuit Court in Suffolk. Augusta Mutual wants Freeman toaccept an 81-thousand dollar settlement for damages. Her attorney,Jesse Johnson told WAVY.com he filed a counter claim, requestingmore than $25,000 in additional payment.
A few homes in the city still look like they did on April 28,2008.
"They're continuing to rent a year later. They have smallchildren. It's certainly not easy for them," Attorney SteveHeretick said of the Chen family.
The homeowners allowed him to share their story withWAVY.com.
Heretick walked our crews around the Chen home and explained,"We have a building defect that falls on the homeowner, because thehouse has been built long enough that the builder is no longerresponsible. ...There are certain limits to what insurancecompanies will cover."
Heretick said attorneys, engineers and insurance representativesare working on a solution.
Still, the delay led Suffolk inspectors to threatendemolition.
Tim Davis could not discuss specific properties, but heacknowledged for many owners, it's been a traumatic year.
He said, "tearing down someone's house is the last resort thatwe have. We give the homeowner every opportunity to repair, andsometimes they do."
Heretick is optimistic the Chens will be able to move back intotheir home.
"Keeping fingers crossed, we hope maybe in about 2 weeks, we canhave documents signed, checks cut and we can have contractors backworking on this," he said.
Andriana Freeman hopes a resolution is near. "This situation hastruly been devastating on all of us. It has taken a toll on usfinancially, mentally and everything," she said.
Craig Parker said he's confident he will rebuild. He smiled andtold stories of countless volunteers who came to help the people ofDriver last year. Parker spoke of a Portsmouth pastor who took morethan a dozen people to help clean the debris in yards and streetsof Suffolk. He exhaled and said, "we had people from other parts ofthe state come out. They took trees and limbs and cleared themout... I kind of owe it to them to get back in business."
Dave Zobel represents the contractor for the Freeman home. Zobelwas also part of the Virginia State Bars Emergency Legal ServicesCommittee.
"Folks who had bad experiences either with their insurancecompanies or contractors, they would need lawyers to help them outso I volunteered to help them."
Zobel went through a trial with one homeowner. He offered advicefor anyone faced with damages from natural disaster. First, askyour insurer questions.
"How are we going to do this repair, who is selecting thecontractor. What's going to be paid? How is the insurance companygoing to issue the payment?" Zobel continued, "You have to get allof this upfront, and preferably, you'd like to see all of this inwriting. Because if it's not in writing, there is no way to provewhat somebody said to you out in the field."
Attorneys involved with post-disaster claims say the insuranceprocess can be complex.
In addition to emergency legal services, both Virginia and NorthCarolina have state resources for residents.
The Virginia Bureau of Insurance and the North CarolinaDepartment of Insurance can help consumers understand theirpolicies. The state offices will not give legal advice to home- orbusiness owners. However they are the regulating arms for insurancein their respective states. Consumers can file complaints or getsuggestions for resolution.
After residents in the Lackey area fought three proposed group homes planned for their neighborhood, the organization behind them is delaying building plans.
Portsmouth detectives are trying to identify two suspects in a Monday afternoon convenience store robbery.
The Hampton Police Division needs the public's help identifying the suspects of a Wendy's robbery that happened Tuesday afternoon.