NEW MINDEN — Slowly, New Minden is recovering from the killer tornado that ripped through town three weeks ago.
There are still boards over many windows, and several damaged or destroyed houses sit just as they were after the storm. But work has started on framing a new house west of the small town of about 200 at the intersection of Illinois 127 and Illinois 177, just north of Nashville, Ill.
And what looks like an abandoned convenience store at the main intersection is Kemp's Korner, which suffered severe damage from the storm and is now being repaired.
Owner Mike Kemp, who lives in Nashville, said he has owned the store for about seven years.
"We probably won't be able to open until after the first of the year, but we will be back," he said.
Kemp said he will have to replace the torn canopy out front and also the gas pumps that were damaged in the Nov. 17 tornado. Most of the machines inside need repairs as well. He figures there was a couple hundred thousand dollars damage which was covered by insurance.
Inside the boarded-up store, Feliz Contreras, owner of Remodeling by Feliz & Son, was repairing the cracked ceiling.
He said he drove to the town right after he heard about the tornado and was part of a crew of volunteers who carried out the valuable stuff still inside the store and boarded it up for security.
"The doors blew out and the windows in front, but a shelf of liquor right in the middle wasn't even touched," he said. "Luckily no one in here was hurt."
The two people killed in the storm, brother and sister Joseph and Frances Hoy, weren't as lucky. Their home on their farm just west of town was completely leveled. The Hoys raised exotic animals and birds, many of which were rescued by volunteers.
The heavily damaged St. John's Lutheran Church in town will probably have to wait until better weather in spring to get most of its damage repaired, said the Rev. Tim Mueller.
"We've named a general contractor," he said. "Some little projects may be done before Christmas even. Two garages were destroyed and there was damage to the parsonage and a rental home we used to use for a school teacher.
"But they have to open up the church roof to fix it and they are talking about needing two weeks of nice weather," Mueller said.
Meanwhile, the church continues to hold Sunday services in the basement of the old school adjacent to the church.
People flocked to the town to help after the storm and are still donating money and staples for the families whose homes were damaged, Mueller said.
"I've really been taken aback by all the contributions," he said.
The town temporarily lost one business generator when Kemp's Korner was hit, but the other, The Blue Room, survived.
Owner Tammy Weihe-Rounds said she watched the storm from her home south of town and was worried, but her business, which was built even before the town was settled in 1841, wasn't harmed.
"It looked like it was coming straight for us," she said. "The weather was pretty rough but it never hit us."
The bar, complete with blue walls inside covered with the names of thousands of patrons and advertising posters on the ceiling, was doing a good noontime trade on Monday.
A slogan on the side of an outdoor cooler sums up what the past few weeks have been like for the area: "Not just a tavern. It's an adventure."