Tornadoes caused extensive damage across the Miami Valley May 27-28, 2019.

DeWine: 500 buildings destroyed, state to ask FEMA for tornado help

Gov. Mike DeWine Monday said the state will send the Federal Emergency Management Agency a detailed assessment of damage and a request for help.

Around 500 buildings in 10 Ohio counties were completely destroyed in the Memorial Day tornadoes, most in the Dayton region.

Twenty-one confirmed tornadoes last week damaged about 1,800 buildings statewide, leaving local and state governments with a situation they cannot handle alone, DeWine said after a tour of manufacturer Trimble in Huber Heights.

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“We have to show that the disaster is of such magnitude, that it’s so big, that it cannot be handled by the state and it cannot be handled by the local governments,” DeWine said. “This was a widespread disaster.”

DeWine believes the tornadoes two weeks ago meet FEMA’s criteria for assistance, but he doesn’t know how FEMA will respond.

The letter will be detailed, about 30 pages long, giving FEMA all the information the state has on the tornadoes and the aftermath.

“It ranged everywhere from total destruction to slight damage,” DeWine said of the 1,800 buildings affected.

About 500 of those buildings and homes appear to be destroyed, he said.

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“We’re outlining the magnitude of this disaster, and we are asking for assistance from the federal government for individuals,” the governor said. “It will be up to the Trump administration and FEMA to decide whether or not this is granted.”

The state will seek help for individuals who were grossly under-insured or uninsured, he said.

 

Cassie Ringsdorf, a FEMA spokeswoman, said Monday the agency has not received the state’s request, but once it does, it will be moved “as quickly as possible” through a review process.

Help from FEMA does not require congressional action, Ringsdorf said.

“Once it gets to FEMA, we review it in the Department of Homeland Security, and then it ultimately is referred to the president,” she said. “That’s where a decision is made.”

Ringsdorf agreed with DeWine’s characterization of FEMA’s criteria for assistance.

“Essentially, we look at a number of factors, but it all culminates into: The damage must be of an extent that it is beyond the capability of the local and state governments to recover from,” she said.

DeWine gave no specific dollar amount that will be requested. The focus of the request will be help to individuals affected by the disaster.

While a DeWine spokeswoman said the Ohio Emergency Management Agency confirmed 21 tornadoes statewide, in the Dayton region, 15 tornadoes have been confirmed so far.

Ohio’s letter will be detailed, about 30 pages long, giving FEMA all the information the state has on the tornadoes and the aftermath, the governor said.

“It ranged everywhere from total destruction to slight damage,” DeWine said of the 1,800 buildings affected.

About 500 of those buildings and homes appear to be completely destroyed.

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“We’re outlining the magnitude of this disaster, and we are asking for assistance from the federal government for individuals,” the governor said.

The state will seek help for individuals who were severely under-insured or uninsured, he said.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley welcomed DeWine’s announcement: “I’m pleased with that. I think the governor has been pretty aggressive about this work.”

If help is granted, individuals affected will be assigned a FEMA case manager, who will help deal with destruction not covered by insurance.

The help will be sought for residents in 10 counties: Montgomery, Greene, Miami, Darke, Mercer, Hocking, Perry, Auglaize, Pickaway and Muskingum.

DeWine didn’t know when FEMA will make a decision. FEMA’s Ringsdorf also could not offer a timeline.

Beyond home damage, there was impact to municipal water systems, government property, a Beavercreek Fire Department station and more.

DeWine made his comments at Trimble, which designs and makes GPS software and hardware for construction equipment. Steven Berglund, Trimble chief executive, said Trimble products will likely have a supporting role to the primary construction firms and companies rebuilding in the wake of the disaster.

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