Miami County sees strong tornado recovery

Community members came together to help clean up tornado debris in Miami County's Union Township three years ago.

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Community members came together to help clean up tornado debris in Miami County's Union Township three years ago.

One challenge was FEMA assistance not covering outbuildings for hard-hit rural area

UNION TWP., Miami County — The Memorial Day tornadoes of 2019 spared much of Miami County, with the most damage seen in Union Twp. in the county’s southwest corner.

“As far as I know, our community is pretty much put back together,” said Phil Mote, president of the Union Twp. trustees.

Most of the people impacted had insurance, which paid for damage, he said.

“Our success story was the volunteers who put the community back together after it happened,” Mote said.

The village of West Milton lies in Union Twp. but most of the damage was on Ohio 571 west of town, Ohio 48 just north and along Rangeline and Calumet roads, said Ben Herron, West Milton’s service director.

“In the end, had the storm been a half mile or more south, West Milton could have been devastated,” said Herron, a long-time village employee.

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Several homes in Union Township just outside West Milton were destroyed by the May 2019 tornadoes.

Several homes in Union Township just outside West Milton were destroyed by the May 2019 tornadoes.

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Several homes in Union Township just outside West Milton were destroyed by the May 2019 tornadoes.

The Miami County Emergency Management Agency listed 139 properties in the county impacted by tornadoes, with 10 in the destroyed category. Another 29 incurred major damage, 53 minor damage and 49 were in the affected category.

Joel Smith, now the county’s EMA director, joined the office after the event.

“Our biggest challenge has been to get updated status on recovery progress. I guess this could be a good thing because residents aren’t beating my door down for help,” he said. “Again, I think this speaks to the self-reliance of Miami County residents, especially those in rural Union Township.”

One challenge reported by the Miami County officials was the rural nature of the county’s impacted area.

FEMA assistance covers dwellings but not usually outbuildings, they said.

“I am aware of a property owner whose barns were destroyed; and therefore, they lost their ability to house livestock,” Smith said. “They couldn’t afford to rebuild because they couldn’t get FEMA assistance. And didn’t have insurance for barns.”

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