Insurance dispute stalls rebuilding after Aumsville tornado

Insurance dispute stalls rebuilding after Aumsville tornado


by Ed Teachout, KGW staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @KGWNews

Posted on March 8, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 9 at 2:22 PM

AUMSVILLE -- A plumbing company whose building was destroyed by a tornado nearly three months ago remains embroiled in a dispute with Farmers Insurance Group.

Nichol Plumbing and its matriarch owner Juanita Nichol became famous after the twister because she was miraculously away from the business as it was destroyed by the tornado. Many in town saw the debris and had feared the worst for Juanita because she could always be seen sitting in the window of her business at her desk.

PHOTOS: Tornado tears through Aumsville

Turns out, she had left moments before the twister hit.

The wreck of a building, and the spot where Nichol would have been sitting, remains unchanged since that day.

Juanita and her son, Doug Nichol said Farmers' offer of replacement costs was $250,000 less than what their own appraiser told them.

"Coming up on four months on it," Doug Nichol said. "All I got is a torn up building."

The rub, Nichol said, was that Farmers approached him last year about increasing his level of coverage to $1 million, just in case.

"I didn't go to them and say I need X amount of dollars on this building," he said. "They told me. They won't man up to it."

Farmers spokesman Jerry Davis said that, without a doubt, the company was going to replace the building and contents. Farmers was still working on its estimate, he said.

Doug Nichol is not happy. Nichol Plumbing has been operating out of a truck and his mother's home.

"It's been an eye opening experience," he said, "It's been an educational experience. But it has not been a good experience."

A community meeting has been scheduled for March 16 with lawmakers. Others in Aumsville have been having similar issues.

Juanita Nichol remains as disenchanted as her son.

"If the agent doesn't go to bat for you he's really letting you down," she said. "I do feel like personally I've been let down."

Background: Tornado tears through Aumsville