‘Heart-wrenching;’ Community members hopeful as FEMA crews begin tornado damage assessment

LOGAN COUNTY — Homes and businesses are destroyed and people are still trying to pick up the pieces after the deadly Logan County tornado touched down nearly two weeks ago.

As reported on News Center 7 at 6:00, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began its damage assessment in Logan County on Tuesday.

>>PHOTOS: Strong tornadoes, severe storms bring destruction across Miami Valley

FEMA deployed six teams throughout 11 Ohio counties that were hit by the March 14 tornadoes.

In Logan County, a tornado destroyed more than 130 buildings and damaged almost 600 others.

FEMA Region 5 Senior External Affairs Specialist Dan Shulman said crews will stay in Logan County as long as they are needed.

“It’s definitely heart-wrenching every time and it doesn’t get any easier,” Shulman said.

Indian Lake Baptist Church Pastor Ben Baum said his community is coming together to help those impacted.

Baum said God was with them the day the tornado touched down because his house and the church were both untouched.

>>RELATED: FEMA to assess damage in Logan County today after deadly tornado destroys hundreds of buildings

“I stepped out on the back deck, and we saw that just to the northwest of us we saw it, the actual tornado form. And it started to actually come to us, but it made a turn and went around so I thank God for that, Baum said.

He said his church community jumped into action as soon as the storm passed.

“We help them with their spiritual health,” Baum said.

The church has been collecting donations to distribute to those in need and will continue to host services.

Baum said FEMA has not come to the church yet.

“I’m just hoping that they start with the hardest hit first, the ones who don’t have a home anymore,” Baum said.

Schulman said he has been doing this job for almost 20 years now and everything the agency deals with is different.

“The information that we’re gathering this week will be used by the state of Ohio to make a determination whether or not to seek a federal disaster declaration,” Schulman said.

>>RELATED: 133 structures destroyed, hundreds damaged in deadly Logan County tornado

FEMA is working with state and local agencies to find out how homeowners, renters, and businesses have been impacted.

“Really getting a sense of what was the damage, to gathering information about what the impact was on the community, businesses that are closed, schools that were closed and how that’s affected those communities,” Schulman said.

He said after the assessment is complete, FEMA will provide its findings to the state, so officials can decide on what the next steps are.

Schulman urges people impacted to contact their insurance company to get the recovery process started.

“Don’t wait for the possibility of federal assistance, get the recovery process started now. We can, if there is federal assistance down the line, we can do reimbursement,” Schulman said.

He said it’s also important for those impacted to report any damage to their local emergency management agency.

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