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Rod Tucker lost his home to the tornado that passed through Wadena in June. He has since been living at the AmericInn on the north side of town. Chris Franz / The Forum

In Wadena, displaced residents are rebuilding home

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WADENA, Minn. - Rod Tucker watched last week as heavy equipment tore apart what remained of the two-story house he had lived in for 14 years.

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"There goes the bathroom," said Tucker, snapping pictures while his 17-year-old son, Devon, took video with his phone.

It's a common sight these days in Wadena, where homes destroyed by a June 17 tornado are starting to be demolished.

Homeowners such as Tucker don't have much time to be nostalgic about what they lost to the tornado.

They're moving ahead, trying to find temporary housing and making tough decisions about their long-term living situations.

Immediately after the storm, Tucker and three of his four college-aged children shared a hotel room at Wadena's AmericInn.

Late last week, they planned to begin moving into a three-bedroom rental house in Wadena.

"I was really lucky because it's hard to find a place," said Tucker, who plans to rebuild in Wadena.

Some residents are staying in neighboring towns or hotels, with plans to go back when their rental housing is available, said Diane Leaders, family services director for Otter Tail Wadena Community Action.

Officials learned on Friday that individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency will not be available because enough homeowners had insurance.

But many residents of Wadena and Otter Tail counties are uninsured or underinsured, Leaders said.

Community Action is helping connect residents with housing and providing some financial assistance, such as the first month's rent or deposit.

Leaders said it's been a challenge to find enough rental housing for people who lost their homes in Wadena and Otter Tail counties.

"Part of the focus is to keep as many people housed in Wadena and the surrounding area as we can," she said.

One thing that's helped is that many people who had homes sitting empty with plans to put them on the market soon have made them available for rent, Leaders said.

Duane and Jonell Asfeld's home on King Avenue in southwest Wadena was a total loss.

The couple plan to stay in Wadena, where they own the local Quiznos restaurant and Jonell works for a bank.

For now, they're renting a friend's home in Wadena that had been sitting vacant after the friend's mother moved into an apartment.

They're still deciding what to do next, but they're leaning toward rebuilding on their same lot.

"With all the housing being bought up in town, I've got a feeling that there aren't that many houses out there," Duane Asfeld said. "We never built a house before, so maybe this is the opportune time."

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