DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Four years later, the Miami Valley continues to recover from the Memorial Day tornadoes.
“Between the city of Dayton, and Harrison Township, and Trotwood, it was really tough going through. I still see some areas of devastation,” says Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald.
According to the National Weather Service, 19 tornadoes tore through Ohio on May 27, 2019; 11 of those hit the Miami Valley.
The first tornado hit Celina around 10 p.m. Tornadoes continued to spawn in other parts of the Miami Valley for the next two hours causing widespread damage in communities like Brookville, West Milton and Old North Dayton.
“This was a tornado that happened at night,” McDonald recalls.
After hearing the tornado had hit her city, she drove to the fire station on Little Richmond Road where they set up a command center.
“I’d drive down the road, and trees would be across the road, or lines would be across the road where I’d have to back up and turn around. There was a lot that went into trying to get through that night,” McDonald says.
“I got a call within an hour saying we had some serious damage,” reflects Kris McClintick, Administrator for Harrison Twp.
“That night I didn’t really know what had happened. I mean the extent of the damage,” says Beavercreek Mayor Bob Stone.
It wasn’t until daylight broke that people started to realize the scope of the damage.
“Looking at the damage as the sun came up that morning, it looked like an apocalyptic scene on North Dixie. I remember driving on North Dixie–there was power lines down, power poles down,” McClintick said.
The strongest tornado grew to an EF-4 a half mile wide and etched a path of destruction in the landscape.
“I started driving through the community, and again I could not believe the level of devastation that had happened in over ten or 15 minutes. It literally tore through our community in some of our most vulnerable areas, the apartment complexes,” describes McDonald.
McClintick says in Harrison Twp., more than 1,800 properties sustained damage.
“I’ve seen tornado damage on TV and in the media. Doesn’t do it justice until you see it in person. It’s unbelievable what you see and the absolute destruction that can happen in minutes,” states McClintick.
In Beavercreek, homes were destroyed and some businesses along North Fairfield Road got the brunt of it.
“This was a major, major incident,” says Stone.
The response was immediate, and the monumental task of cleaning up started right away.
“It was a massive amount of manpower and money,” admits Stone.
“At the onset we had over 3,000 volunteers that came together, that came into this community, and they all got in there, and they helped,” says McDonald.
For Harrison Twp., cleanup included removing debris, getting power restored, and repairing roads.
“Neighbors were helping neighbors. Even though their house was destroyed or damaged, they were knocking on each other’s doors to make sure they were safe, helping them clean up, and get out. We had volunteer groups that were here the next day. We went to Sam’s Club and bought as many cases of water that we could,” states McClintick.
Four years later, there are signs of progress. McDonald estimates Trotwood is about 98% recovered. Plaques have been installed throughout the city, to memorialize than night and tell the city’s story of survival.
“We wanted them to have something that they could look at and be reminded of, but to also say that we survived this,” states McDonald.
McClintick estimates Harrison Twp. has recovered around 96%. Businesses have re-opened and bounced back, and there are also new signs of life.
“Sinclair Park, which was our biggest park, we lost 300 trees out of 400 trees. We’ve re-planted over 100 of those trees,” says McClintick.
McClintick estimates the total cleanup effort for the Township came with a price tag of $3 million. They worked with FEMA to help cover some of the costs.
“We have a handful of properties that have been abandoned that we’re working on getting demolished,” McClintick said.
In Beavercreek, North Fairfield Road looks a lot like it did before, and the area is booming with new businesses and development. Stone estimates the city is 98-99% recovered, and they are continuing to plant trees since they lost so many in the tornadoes.
“We still have some empty lots where people have not rebuilt,” says Stone.
Although recovery has been slow in some areas, it has been steady. While there’s still work to do in some communities, these four years have given them a chance to grow and work through tragedy. As people have built back, they’ve shown that out of the rubble, resilience rises.
It’s estimated the tornadoes caused $1 billion dollars in damage to the Miami Valley.