Storming Back: Fulton County in last stages of tornado cleanupWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
A year later, there is still tornado cleanup to be done in Fulton County.
While most major damage has been dealt with, there are still families with damaged trees to cut and clear, said Chuck Whitmire, senior pastor at Shiloh Christian Union Church in Delta.
The church — which served as an initial volunteer center for county relief efforts after the June 5 tornado — recently organized its annual week of community service. Among the dozens of projects tackled by volunteers was helping local families clear storm damage.
“There are still some families struggling,” Whitmire said. “They still have some pretty significant things with actual property damage that are not resolved yet. For the most part, the rebuilding of homes and buildings is pretty much complete. What’s going on right now is still a lot of cutting up of trees, relandscaping, reseeding lawns.”
Several lots also now stand empty as families elected to move or leave the area rather than rebuild, added Anita Whitmire, the pastor’s wife and church secretary.
Cleanup also continues in Oak Openings Metropark, where one trail is still closed, said Scott Carpenter, public relations director of Metroparks of Toledo Area.
The tornado cut a 150-acre swath through the park’s 4,000 acres, downing and damaging thousands of trees, Carpenter said. Last fall, a logging company removed all the dead and dying trees, but many stumps and smaller limbs still need to be cleared.
“Amazingly, the lodge and no buildings were harmed and no people were harmed, but, man, it really tore things up,” Carpenter said.
Fulton County had 68 structures affected by the tornado, all private residential: 11 destroyed, 20 with major damage, 11 with minor damage and 26 affected, meaning minimal damage such as a piece of damaged siding or a shingle blown off, said Justin Thompson, director of the Fulton County Emergency Management Agency.
Insurance covered the vast majority of damage.
“I’m sure people are still trying to get back to normal, but most of our affected victims were insured,” Thompson said. “From the county point of view, we went through and we took care of most of the major wooded debris and then we let insurance take its course.”
Costs to the county and townships were mainly paying for extra shifts put in by first responders and those who removed debris from roads. Some of the public time and materials were reimbursed by the state, Thompson said.
“I’m sure it’s hurt the [county’s] budget, but it really didn’t matter to them what the budget was at that point; they just wanted to get done what needed to get done,” Thompson said. “Everyone from the county commissioners to Congressman Latta and the rest of the state government were instrumental and no holds barred to getting things done.”
Although federal aid was denied, the state provided some emergency aid to families, Thompson said.
Local churches and organizations also collected donations, including the United Way of Fulton County, which distributed more than $53,000, said Executive Director Gina Saaf.
Although some Fulton County families reported last year they missed warnings because they did not hear tornado sirens, the county will not be adding more, Thompson said. The sirens, which are meant for outdoor notification, have a 1-mile audible radius, although wind and other ambient sounds can decrease that range.
“We’ve talked about it, but there’s always going to be people out of reach of sirens,” Thompson said. “Having a siren every square mile radius of the county is not cost-effective at all. People really need to find other means of notification. One thing I always push is the NOAA weather radios.”
To mark the anniversary of the tornado, Shiloh Christian Union Church is planning a community commemoration June 5.
The event, which starts at 11 a.m. at the church, 2100 County Road 5, will include an outdoor worship service, potluck, photo display, music and speakers. Everyone is welcome. Attendees should bring lawn chairs and a dish to share.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to celebrate what’s happened since that time — the resilience, the rebuilding, the sense of community and neighbors helping one another. People responded so marvelously and we just want to celebrate that together,” Chuck Whitmire said.
“We want to thank God. Not one person lost their life here. There was millions of dollars in damage, but the one person injured recovered within a few months. Her house was completely blown away and when it was gone, she was still standing there. It was the marvelous hand of protection upon her to not have more serious injuries than she experienced. Most of the things lost were things that could be replaced.”