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Counties Tally Tornado Damage To Businesses, Homes Ahead Of FEMA Visit

EF4 tornado damage in Old North Dayton
April Laissle

It’s been a week since the Memorial Day tornado outbreak left a path of widespread devastation across the Miami Valley and dozens of tornado-affected businesses in Greene County and Montgomery County are still struggling to resume their normal operations. City and county officials have been out canvassing hard-hit areas in an effort to assess the extent of the storm’s economic impacts.

The water is running again for residents across Dayton and Montgomery County. Many roadways are cleared of debris. And Dayton Power and Light reports fewer than 2,000 customers remain without electricity.

But for many businesses in the tornadoes’ path, things are far from business as usual.

It’s still unclear exactly how many Miami Valley businesses suffered physical damage from the storm, and how extensive that damage was, but assessment teams have so far counted at least 173 damaged businesses in storm-affected areas of Montgomery County.

Preliminary numbers show at least 2,550 residential properties suffered damage.

"Our community was devastated by this storm, and our preliminary assessment shows the extent of the damage to our homes and businesses. Our emergency management agency has been working around the clock to provide vital services and coordinate with local law enforcement, utility companies, nonprofits, and jurisdictions. We will continue to support our citizens and our businesses as they work together to recover from this unprecedented natural disaster," Montgomery County Commission President Debbie Lieberman told WYSO in a statement.

Greene County is reporting at least 40 commercial buildings suffered damage from the tornado, says Brandon Huddleson, county administrator.

"We're trying to gather information, as far as what what businesses suffered physical damage, how extensive was that damage, and then beyond that we had businesses who suffered because they were out of electricity or didn't have water there," says the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Holly Allen. "They're facing issues with their employees, who maybe had damage at home. So they're trying to fill those spaces as well. It's probably going to be a matter of several more days for us to have that information gathered. "

Allen says many tornado-affected businesses lack internet service to allow them to communicate with their customers and suppliers.

“To let them know whether they can continue to fill the needs of their customers. They're also having a hard time having access to the information they need to get back up and running,” she says. 

The Chamber is working to help businesses restore their internet, and to relocate some damaged businesses that need to move to temporary spaces so they can reopen their doors.

Allen says the agency is also connecting tornado-affected businesses with a network of HR experts, to help them navigate employee issues as their recovery from the storm moves forward. 

"We don't have official numbers right now on how many employees are affected," she says, "and I can tell you that already some of our businesses have taken different approaches to human resources. Some of them have told me that they've communicated with their employees that they can commit to, let's say the end of the month that they will receive a paycheck, while they take a moment to figure out how they're going to deal with whatever kind of damage they've suffered."
Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are expected in Ohio this week to investigate the damage from last week’s tornadoes to residential and commercial properties.

The federal damage assessment is a critical step in the process for Ohio to receive federal disaster aid after a presidential disaster declaration.  

FEMA investigators will work in Montgomery, Greene, Mercer, Auglaize, Darke, Miami, Pickaway, Hocking, Perry and Muskingum Counties.

A spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine's office says there's no estimate for how long the entire process could take.

In additional to FEMA programs, other potential disaster assistance could come to tornado-affected areas through the United States Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For business-related assistance, visit the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce's resource guide, or call 937-226-8258.