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FEMA opening disaster recovery center in Macomb County in response to August storms

Posted at 12:08 AM, Feb 23, 2024

CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — In response to the storms that hit Michigan between Aug. 24 and Aug. 26 of 2023, inspectors with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be in Gibraltar on Friday visiting homes and areas that suffered damage.

A new disaster recovery center is also opening Friday in Macomb County. It opens at 8 a.m. Friday at the Chesterfield Township Central Fire Station and will be open to the public, running Monday through Saturday until 6:30 p.m. and will remain in Chesterfield as long as needed.

It's to help residents in Eaton, Ingham, Ionia, Kent, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne counties.

The storms caused several thousand dollars of damage, and destroyed the trailer home of Kayla Barton and Eric Szalka. The couple says without insurance, they lost upward of $30,000 after their trailer had to be demolished.'

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“We had to move into the camper for about four months after the tornado,” Barton said.

"It's been a struggle," Szalka added. "We've been struggling to get back up on our feet."

Today, they live on one of their parents' property three hours away and this month began applying for FEMA assistance, which opened up earlier this month for those with damage from the storms. That’s when seven confirmed tornadoes hit the state, causing extensive damage along with major flooding that hit a number of communities in metro Detroit.

Related: Photo gallery of damage after severe weather hits parts of Michigan

FEMA spokesperson Darrell Habisch says they have inspectors on the ground in Michigan now.

“We have folks going door to door in various communities around the Detroit area as well as Lansing and Grand Rapids,” Habisch said.

The new help center opening in Chesterfield will be available to answer questions, help people with the process and take in-person applications.

"You can bring all of your information with you. We can sign you up right then and there,” Habisch added.

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So far in Michigan, FEMA has visited over 3,000 homes and approved $3.2 million in assistance from the August storms. However, Habisch warns those in need that FEMA should not be their first line of defense, as they can't replace all that was lost. They can help with specific necessary repairs and replacements, as well as rental assistance for those displaced.

“FEMA is not an insurance company. FEMA is here to help you with your immediate needs," Habisch said. "What happened during the storm and right after those terrible storms? What did you need right away to get into a safe, secure and sanitary environment?”

As for Barton and Szalka, they’re working with FEMA to inspect the site their home once stood, unclear what help they can get but say any help is appreciated.

“We literally live day by day, but it's God or somebody working with us, and they’re making sure we’re OK and we have each other,” Barton said.

The deadline for applications is April 8. To apply without visiting a center, call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., go online to disasterassistance.gov or download the FEMA app.

For more information about the disaster recovery operation in Michigan, visit fema.gov/disaster.

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