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President Issues Disaster Declaration For Ohio Counties Impacted By Tornadoes

Celina Mayor Jeffrey Hazel, Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio First Lady address the media the morning after an EF3 tornado killed one resident and left 40 with uninhabitable homes.
Jason Reynolds
Gov. Mike DeWine formally requested a federal disaster declaration last week.

The 10 Ohio counties impacted by the Memorial Day tornado outbreak are now eligible for federal disaster recovery aid. Dayton-area officials say the FEMA and other funding could play a crucial role in the Miami Valley’s ongoing recovery.

A truckload of shoes arrives at Corinthian Baptist Church, ready for donation to people affected by the recent tornadoes.
Credit George Drake, Jr. / WYSO

President Donald Trump issued a federal disaster declaration Tuesday, one week after Gov. Mike DeWine formally requested it.

The declaration means affected Ohioans are now eligible for aid through FEMA’s individual assistance, hazard mitigation, and disaster legal services programs.

Business owners may also qualify for low-interest loans through the United States Small Business Administration.

Three weeks after the storm, many areas of Dayton are still littered with debris and hundreds of residents remain displaced from their homes and apartments.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says she’s hopeful the disaster federal aid will help mitigate rising recovery costs to the city and individual residents, especially as public works crews continue to remove debris from heavily affected areas, including Old North Dayton, and around Deweese Park. 

"There are 20 trees on a lot, taking out a house, there's just a ton of damage there. And a lot of these trees are so large that they're not in the public right-of-way that people cannot afford $14,000 for a tree to be moved, which is some of the prices that are coming back because these trees are so large."

FEMA is expected to open assistance centers, send back investigators to inspect affected areas and accept aid applications online and by phone.

A preliminary federal assessment revealed nearly 1,000 buildings were destroyed or significantly damaged by the storms. More than 800 others sustained minor damage.

Register for FEMA help:

Affected residents and business owners can register for FEMA aid online, at DisasterAssistance.gov, or by phone at: 1-800-621-3362. 

The Presidential Disaster Declaration covers Auglaize, Darke, Greene, Hocking, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Muskingum, Perry, and Pickaway counties related to the 21 confirmed tornadoes that touched down in Western Ohio during the evening of May 27 and early morning of May 28.

The outbreak also included severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding and landslides.

“When I spoke with President Trump after these tornadoes, he vowed to provide any assistance he could, and I am grateful that he followed through today on that promise to help those impacted by these storms,” said Governor DeWine in a statement. "The Presidential Disaster Declaration will help those working to rebuild their homes and their lives."

The Presidential Disaster Declaration also now allows the state to apply to for crisis counseling assistance, disaster unemployment assistance, and disaster case management help, the governor's office says.

In Trotwood, where hundreds of properties remain damaged, city officials announced Monday they've established a disaster-relief fund to help displaced residents and business owners get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

Federal disaster aid will speed that process, Mayor Mary McDonald said at the city’s 2019 State of the City address Monday night.

"I had an opportunity to talk to President Trump. He made me some promises," she said, "that we're going to be taken care of and we're going to hold him to just that. So we're excited about that."

McDonald told a standing-room crowd of more than 150 people the city is unified in its recovery efforts.

Roughly 419 properties were significantly damaged in Trotwood, and more than 850 rental units were destroyed. City officials say they're concerned about a rise in homelessness as people exhaust the generosity of friends and family. 

But, the mayor says she's floored by the spirit of togetherness she's witnessed among Trotwood residents since the storm. 

“We lost so much within our community, but we gained so much within the city of Trotwood. We've gained a trust and a belief in ourselves that we didn't have before, that we didn't show before, and oftentimes it has to come through situations like this, unfortunately," she says. "And how do we keep that going? We keep that going. That's how we do that.”

Jess Mador comes to WYSO from Knoxville NPR-station WUOT, where she created an interactive multimedia health storytelling project called TruckBeat, one of 15 projects around the country participating in AIR's Localore: #Finding America initiative. Before TruckBeat, Jess was an independent public radio journalist based in Minneapolis. She’s also worked as a staff reporter and producer at Minnesota Public Radio in the Twin Cities, and produced audio, video and web stories for a variety of other news outlets, including NPR News, APM, and PBS television stations. She has a Master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. She loves making documentaries and telling stories at the intersection of journalism, digital and social media.
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