Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert discusses emergency management operations during the response to Memorial Day Tornadoes. More than 100 area officials, leaders of social service agencies, nonprofits and faith-based groups, law enforcement and emergency services met Wednesday at Sinclair Community College to learn about the next phase of rebuilding. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Photo: Chris Stewart
Photo: Chris Stewart

Officials: Everyone has role in next tornado recovery phase

The next phase of tornado recovery will be a “heavy lift” requiring the hands of many over the next two years, say those working to mend the lives of Memorial Day tornadoes survivors.

“It’s really going to take the entire community being involved, whether it’s financial donations to the Dayton Foundation’s recovery fund or its labor in terms of getting the organizations you work with or worship with involved,” said Laura Mercer, who is directing the effort to help individuals and households recover.

INTERACTIVE MAP: See where thousands of properties were damaged in Montgomery County tornadoes

More than 100 area officials, leaders of social service agencies, nonprofits and faith-based groups, along with those in public health, law enforcement and emergency services met Wednesday afternoon at Sinclair Community College to learn about the uphill push coming next.

“We need your help in order to do this. It’s a heavy lift,” said Mercer, also Sinclair’s Centerville Campus executive director.

The next step will add long-term community recovery components — those more focused on public infrastructure, economic recovery and health and social services needs — to efforts already keyed on individual recovery, said Mary Kucenski, a FEMA voluntary agency liaison.

“While they are separate, they are actually somewhat interconnected, and it’s important they work together,” she said.

The Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC), which serves Montgomery County as well as the affected areas in Miami and Greene counties, will oversee the long-term community recovery, officials said.

“We want all jurisdictions to be lifted up,” said Brian Martin, MVRPC executive director. “I know that the needs are huge, and the needs are immediate, and the communities definitely need support.”

MVRPC organization will also be hiring an experienced local disaster recovery manager, Martin said.

A record-setting 21 tornadoes hit Ohio on Memorial Day night and into the next morning, including 15 in this region, one devastating EF4 twister.

Up to 1,100 households were displaced by Memorial Day tornadoes in Montgomery County and more than 750 are still struggling to find a place to live, according to FEMA.

PHOTOS: Tornado outbreak in Miami Valley

Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert reminded those in attendance of the critical danger the region faced that night and the many efforts — from first responders to utility workers — that went into saving lives and property.

“When I went through Trotwood that night, the whole city smelled of gas,” he said.

Montgomery County Commissioner Judy Dodge said the first responders and emergency management officials guided the region through “some of the most challenging months this county has ever experienced,” but everyone will need to pitch in for years to come.

“Their hard work has set us up for a successful long-term recovery effort,” she said. “But … when we leave here today our goal is to have everyone in this room understand their role and how they fit together in this process.”

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