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Hundreds Still In Need Six Months After Memorial Day Tornado Outbreak

2019 Memorial Day Tornado
Jerry Kenney

Almost six months after the Memorial Day tornado outbreak, advocates say hundreds of people affected by the storm are still in need of aid.

Demand for assistance is expected to continue over the next few years, according to data from the Miami Valley Long Term Recovery Operations Group, a coalition of more than 20 nonprofits and religious groups that came together in the weeks following the disaster.

Michael Vanderburgh, Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul Dayton, serves as the chair of the coalition and says at least 300 families affected by the tornadoes still face housing, transportation and other challenges.

And, Vanderburgh says hundreds of affected properties across the tornado zone need to be repaired or demolished. 

“What do we do with the vacant homes, damaged neighborhoods that have the debris that still has not been cleared away and won't be for some time?” he says. “What do we do to redevelop? What tax incentives are there to help reinvestment in the communities?”

Vanderburgh credits the official presidential disaster declaration after the storm, and months of coordinated volunteer efforts with the recovery progress made to date.

Municipalities in the tornado zone are documenting their expenses related to emergency response, public safety, infrastructure damage and cleanup with the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency.  FEMA Public Assistance is anticipated to deliver millions of dollars in partial reimbursement for such government disaster-related costs.   

As the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission takes the lead on redevelopment planning in tornado-affected areas, Vanderburgh says his coalition is working to tap new funding sources for rebuilding. 

“So, between the private funding that has happened and the public participation from government grants, and also from national relief organizations and national affiliates of organizations like mine, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, there are many of us in the nonprofit sphere here who have regional and national organizations that we can lean on [for] assistance as well, and that's been very helpful.”

Officials are urging any renters, home or business owners who still need help securing a damaged property to call the disaster helpline at 2-1-1. Tornado assistance operators are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 2-1-1. Or, call 937-225-3000 (toll-free 855-405-7629).

Help is also available through the website mvstrong.org.

Volunteers are needed this weekend to help homeowners in need of new or replacement tarps, yard cleanup and window boarding over the weekend of Nov. 15 and 16.

Harrison Township development director Cathi Spaugy says that volunteer effort will continue throughout the fall and winter for as long as the weather cooperates. 

To volunteer, visit mvstrong.org

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials . In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.