Lowe’s to replace vet’s windows destroyed by tornado

Elmo Blanken’s Ome Avenue home was uninsured against the EF4 tornado’s damage, which took out some windows that remain covered with only tarps as temperatures reach freezing. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Elmo Blanken’s Ome Avenue home was uninsured against the EF4 tornado’s damage, which took out some windows that remain covered with only tarps as temperatures reach freezing. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dayton Daily News reporters Chris Stewart and Josh Sweigart — joined at times by Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs — are traveling the length of the largest of the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes. It tore a path across Montgomery County, impacting thousands of homes and businesses. We are gathering people’s stories and investigating obstacles to recovery. This story is part of that coverage. Go here for the full project.


Lowe’s Home Improvement is donating windows and other home repairs for an 83-year-old veteran whose Northridge home is still missing windows after being hit by one of the Memorial Day tornadoes.

The Dayton Daily News profiled Elmo Blanken for a story about how many tornado-damaged homes across the Miami Valley are still exposed to the elements as winter weather approaches. Blanken, a retired bricklayer and Air Force veteran, had only blue tarps covering three of his windows.

RELATED: Why vet’s tornado-hit home still doesn’t have windows, even as cold comes

“We like to give back to the community, and I knew immediately when I saw your story we had to get involved and help this guy out,” said Lowe’s district manager Shane Thompson.

After visiting Blanken’s home, Thompson offered to replace not only the missing windows, but all six windows in the house. Lowe’s is also replacing Blanken’s back porch, which was destroyed by the storm.

“That’s awesome. I don’t know what to say, really,” Blanken told the newsaper this week when asked about the company’s gesture.

WALKING THE PATH OF THE STORM: At least 750 homes still empty in Trotwood after tornado

Blanken lives alone in the home with his cockatiel, Pretty Girl, and his cat, Two Bits. He said he has lived there since 1967 and owns the home. He doesn’t have homeowner’s insurance, he said, because he couldn’t afford it. The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave him enough money to replace his roof, but not the windows.

Daily News reporters met Blanken as they travel the path of the EF4 tornado across Montgomery County, interviewing those impacted and investigating how to overcome obstacles to recovery.

RELATED: Rental market tightens even more as tenants displaced by tornadoes

Reporters have met others living in homes still covered in tarps and plywood. Some, like Blanken, have no insurance. Others are fighting with their insurance companies or having a hard time finding contractors.

Blanken is proudly independent, and didn’t ask for help. But he was touched by the outpouring of support.

“It’s unbelievable, he said.

Assistance is still available for others in his situation. Lowe’s was one of several organizations and people who offered to help Blanken with his windows. Miami Valley residents needing any kind of assistance recovering from the tornadoes are urged to call the United Way helpline at 211.

RELATED: Tornado recovery resource guide

The Miami Valley Long-Term Recovery Operations Group has caseworkers who can help tornado survivors access resources to meet their needs. More than 200 people have open cases through 211, according to group executive director Laura Mercer.

The recovery group is planning a Button Up for Winter event this weekend to help seal homes before winter hits for more than a dozen households that have requested assistance.

LISTEN: Walking the Path of the Storm Podcast

The Dayton Daily News is asking those affected by the storm to fill out a survey to assess its lasting impacts, and what survivors need for short-term and long-term recovery. Find the survey on our website at DaytonDailyNews.com/tornadosurvey.

RELATED: Volunteer effort helps seal up tornado-impacted homes before winter

INVESTIGATION: ‘Disaster after the disaster:’ Fighting insurance over tornado damage

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