Island Cove Marina repairs continue a week after storm

Island Cove Marina repairs continue a week after storm

March 9th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Damage to boats and slips is all around Island Cove Marina Thursday after the area was hit by an EF3 tornado a week ago today.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

Island Cove Marina officials said a $1 million insurance check they received Thursday will pay for a fraction of the estimated $5 million of damage the lakefront business sustained in a tornado a week ago today.

Also, the figure doesn't include the boats that were damaged, officials said, with 70 percent of the 400 slips at the Harrison marina marred by the storm.

"We've got a lot of boats. We don't know the extent of the damage," said Terry Kelley, the marina's general manager.

The remains of several large crumpled metal canopies that had covered boat slips lay half submerged in the water at the Highway 58 marina.

Workers were clearing downed trees from the marina entrance. Across the road, the twister's path was visible by a swath of trees snapped in half and littered along the ground.

Kelley said about 25 boats sank after the storm that hit last Friday. He said workers used booms the day after the tornado to contain the spread of spilt fuel in Chickamauga Lake.

"All the boats on the bottom in the back area are now up," he said. Kelley said the marina's main gas dock was not damaged.

Arthell Gray, co-owner of the marina with Jim Sheets, said there has been "a lot of sleepless nights" since the twister hit as they try to regroup.

In addition to a big cleanup operation, a crane and barge are taking damaged docks apart, and officials said they're already talking about rebuilding the marina.

"We're moving forward and plan on being bigger and better," Kelley said.

David Gilfillan, a regional vice president for Chartis Insurance, said it delivered the initial check in less than a week because it's trying to help speed the recovery.

"We've seen the community pull together to help each other," he said. "We know the best way to help in this situation is to get money into the hands of the people who have been hurt quickly."

Kelley said having the advance from the insurance company in hand is "a huge relief to us."

Boat owners should have their own insurance to make repairs, he said.

"Everybody's distraught in this situation," Kelley said. "We'll just have to work through it together."

Initial recovery efforts ought to take about two months, he said, though it could take two years "to get back 100 percent."

"We'll be ready in the season," Kelley said as warmer boating weather approaches.

Kelley said about 10 people live at the marina and none were injured.

David Gooch, the marina's dockmaster, recalled that he was in one of its buildings when the tornado hit while his wife was in their houseboat.

"We knew there were tornadoes in the area," he said. "If I had gone to get her ... we'd been blown away. I hope I never see anything like it again."