DAMAGE DONE: Dozens of homes & buildings lost in Kalamazoo County tornado

FEMA set to assess storm damage across 4 counties starting Tuesday
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Portage Tornado
Posted at 10:08 AM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 20:05:37-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — FEMA teams will arrive Tuesday to begin assessing damage to homes and businesses destroyed in last week's quadruple tornado strikes, says Kalamazoo County Emergency Management.

The county agency has been coordinating help for residents and the initial assessments required to garner federal assistance since the storms tore through the area on May 7.

Portage Volunteer tornado cleanup

Here's what we know from their reports:

Single-Family HomesMulti-Family HomesMobile HomesBusiness StructuresNon-Profit Organizations
Destroyed2582410
Major Damage801127101
Minor Damage75245851

Over 250 structures fell into the Affected category— meaning they suffered noticeable damage that can be easily repaired.

Assessments were made based on the level of damage to each structure and the amount of work it would take to restore them.

Kalamazoo County Emergency Management Director Mike Corfman says the business structures all had multiple tenants, many of whom are now displaced.

“That major damage is either it’s going to require extensive repair, to get it back to the way it was, or they may have to tear it down,” Corfman said.

Tornado cleanup Portage

At least 400 homes were minorly damaged or affected by damage in some way.

There’s no telling an exact dollar amount just yet. The emergency management director explained why.

“The problem with damage assessment, is we can go back into community records and look at what the property may be assessed at from an equalization standpoint. But that’s the land and the building. We only have building damage in most cases,” Corfman said.

Trees aren’t covered in that assessment.

“That’s one of the things people don’t understand,’ Corfman said.

Buildings with damage are also valued differently.

“So we don’t have any idea on the damage to the structures just yet, monetary,” Corfman said.

Director Corfman says things could have been much worse. He said Tuesday that two people were sent to the hospital from the storm, but were released. Roughly 16 needed medical attention immediately following the storm, but some of those needs were due to preexisting medical conditions.

Things are specifically rough for 28 people who are left at an area shelter.

“We’re trying to work out some longer term sheltering for those people. Generally, the people that are there, their homes are gone. They just cannot go back, period,” Corfman said.

Kalamazoo damage assessors hit the hardest effected areas first, to explain to FEMA why they have to come.

“We do what’s called preliminary. We go out and we get just a snapshot for FEMA. So yes, we’re trying to accumulate all those structures that are destroyed or severely damaged. We have to meet a threshold. Once we meet that threshold, Then the affected and the minors are just icing on the cake,” Corfman said.

Corfman says this tornado has affected the entire community, and state and federal assistance are on the way to help with recovery.

“Until I actually started walking it and we started doing damage assessment did we really realize wow, they said this was an F-2 tornado. But it was 1 mile an hour short from being an F-3,” Corfman said.

RELATED: 'Everybody needs a hand': Volunteers help tornado victims with clean-up efforts

The new round of assessments will be a more in-depth investigation of each property in order to place more exact monetary figures on the damage and determine if federal disaster declarations can be made.

Portage Tornado

Here's how the process works on FEMA's end.

FEMA's reports may change the number of structures in each category, as criteria can differ between the agencies and as more information becomes available.

Portage Tornado

Those impacted should keep an eye out for assessors in FEMA vests, carrying a FEMA ID starting Wednesday. In Kalamazoo County, they will be escorted by Kalamazoo County and Portage Officials.

FEMA is expected to remain in town until Friday, but that could change given the extent of the damage. FEMA will go through all the counties affected by the tornado, and will deploy a total of 6 teams throughout southwest Michigan.

Initial Assessment numbers in for storm damage in Kalamazoo County

Here are some tips from FEMA about preserving your family treasures:

Photographs

  • Never pull apart wet photographs and negatives that are stuck together.
  • If time allows, take a photo of your photograph to save a digital copy of it
  • Clean photographs by rinsing them carefully in distilled water, if available, or in clean water if you cannot find distilled water.
  • Air dry photos on a plastic screen or paper towel, or by hanging them by the corner with plastic clothespins.
  • Don’t let the image come into contact with other surfaces as it dries.

Books

  • If you have books that were in sewage-contaminated water, they are hazardous to your health. Discard them or consult a professional conservator for advice.
  • Remove dust jackets to dry separately.
  • Place paper towels between the pages of wet books.
  • For books that are damp or partially wet, if the books were in muddy, rusty, or salt water, rinse the books, one at a time, in a bucket or tub of clean water, holding the book closed tightly while dipping

Documents, Prints and Papers

  • Remove paintings and prints from frames.
  • Air dry items if you have only a few wet documents or papers, or if you have enough space to air dry all of your items.
  • Air dry flat as individual sheets or in small piles up to a quarter inch high.
  • Documents can be frozen if you have too many pieces to air dry. It may take several weeks to several months for this process.

Their site has more info on preserving heirlooms. Just scroll through and follow the links in each category.