Friday, May 31st, 2019

Tornado displaces residents

50-60 families lost homes

By Sydney Albert
Photo by Dan Melograna/The Daily Standard

Clara Hellwarth helps clean up debris on Thursday from one of the many homes destroyed by the Memorial Day tornado on Jessica Lane in Celina.

CELINA - Mercer County Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Robbins predicted the community still has a long road to recovery after Monday's tornado as the immediate relief efforts are starting to conclude.
Tornadoes are nothing new to the area, with twisters touching down in Mercer County in 2011 and again in 2017. However, the number of people affected this time around is like nothing Robbins has ever handled, he said.
The November 2017 tornadoes destroyed some homes and farm buildings and left several businesses severely damaged. Robbins said the experience helped prepare his agency for its initial response to the recent devastation, but the number of affected structures was larger, and the emotional recovery was far different when so many have had homes destroyed.
"Emotionally it's different when somebody's lost their home than, you know, there's a store not there any more," he said.
While the loss of a business affects employees, the county now has between 50-60 families who will be without a home for months, he continued.
"This is the most I have ever dealt with as far as the number of people directly affected."
The county has regularly struggled with a lack of housing, a fact that might make long-term recovery for affected families difficult, he pointed out.
"We've got to figure out a way to house all these people when we don't have enough rental properties on a daily basis in this county."
Robbins said he was talking with state and federal government officials to find housing solutions. Most victims were likely covered by insurance, which would help with some of the financial loss, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency could offer some help with housing as well.
Much of the scattered debris from trees and houses that had littered yards, streets and fields has been cleaned up, Robbins said. While many people are still eager to volunteer and help, attention must move from the immediate response to more long-term recovery efforts.
The temporary command center that had sprung up at the Celina First Church of God on Fairground Road was being dismantled on Thursday, and those seeking to donate or find help are being directed to contact St. John Lutheran Church, 1100 N. Main St., or CALL Food Pantry, 420 N. Brandon Ave.
Homer Burnett, executive director of CALL, said immediate relief had been staged at local churches, which offered snacks and drinks throughout the day as well as prepared meals for victims and cleanup crews. St. John Lutheran Church is still offering such services.
Now, though, more donations are being forwarded to the food pantry because of the ministry's larger storage space, Burnett said. Tornado victims in need of food items, clothing or cleanup supplies can pick them up from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
To those looking to donate, Burnett said the pantry has received plenty of water and snack foods, and he expected more blankets would be arriving. Donations of appliances or baby supplies, including diapers, wipes and baby clothing, are needed. Monetary donations will also help buy any other products that might be needed. Donations can be dropped off at the CALL office.

Find links to all other tornado coverage on this page including stories, map, albums and video.
Photo by Dan Melograna/The Daily Standard

An American flag hangs in a broken bedroom window on Thursday on Jill Avenue in Celina.

Additional online story on this date
CELINA - Brad Schwieterman glanced out at his family's field, devoid of crops and still damp from the morning's rain.
Like many farmers in the area, Schwieterman has yet to plant any corn due to the recent heavy rains in the region. [More]
Subscriber and paid stories on this date
CELINA - The state is sending $175,000 in disaster assistance to Mercer County to aid low-income individuals, pregnant women, children and others who were adversely impacted by Monday night's tornado.
CELINA - Property owners may get a break on their real estate tax valuation if their properties were damaged or destroyed as a result of the May 27 storm, according to a news release from Mercer County Auditor Randy Grapner.
CELINA - Wanting to help their community, Reynolds & Reynolds officials on Wednesday gave 150 employees a paid day to help clean up properties damaged by the tornado.
FORT RECOVERY - Kelli Thobe will become the new elementary principal for prekindergarten through fifth grade at Fort Recovery Local Schools on Monday, according to a district news release.
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