Heavy equipment is being used to clean up debris following the tornado that struck Cloverdale. (Putnam Sentinel/Anne Coburn-Griffis)
CLOVERDALE - Ten days after two storms left destruction in their wake, Putnam County is on the road to recovery. The poster child for this recovery is the small village of Cloverdale, ground zero for one storm cell which spawned a Category EF2 tornado on Nov. 17.
Four families who rode out the storm in the Cloverdale Community Club made the Oak Haven Residential Care Center, at 152 Main St., Cloverdale, their home for a few days after their own homes were lost.
"My son went to bed at 3:30 a.m.. At 6:30 he went and helped an employee who lost her home. Her house was gone that evening. She lived in a mobile home next to the community club," said Sherri Webb, Oak Haven owner. "Those were the people that were coming to us. I actually didn't even get out of here until Tuesday to see what happened. We had four families in here to begin with, and then they slowly made their way back to family."
The Putnam County Red Cross also set up shop in the center, where the organization offered food, shelter, bedding, clothing and counseling to storm victims. According to Webb, the Red Cross remained on-site until Nov. 23.
"Actually, (Putnam County American Red Cross Director) Michelle Williams called me and said there was another family outside of Cloverdale that had not found out they had a total loss. They were in contact with her today, so we're still following up with people. We are still taking food donations. As far as clothing, that's going to the Thrift Store."
The need for volunteers still exists. However, they are not prepared to handle an influx of volunteers until they have appointed volunteer management.
Cloverdale Mayor Judd Spencer is in the process of assigning a person to that position. Through the weekend, the volunteer efforts are going to be at a standstill. Spencer expressed the hope to have someone assigned to that post by Tuesday, after which they will match up residents' needs with volunteer resources and the volunteers themselves.
"The Cloverdale effort is moving along rather nicely," reported Anita Stechschulte, Putnam County Office of Public Safety assistant director. "Ohio EPA, Ohio EMA and Congressman Robert Latta were in Cloverdale (Nov. 25) to address the debris management needs and the results were the brush from the storm is going to be mulched through a cooperative effort with the Village of Ottawa and construction and demolition debris will go to Defiance County."
At present, 13 homes are slated for demolition.
One of the most visible symbols of the battering taken by Cloverdale is St. Barbara's Catholic Church. The night of and for days after the storm, images of the parish's leveled sanctuary and rectory headlined on regional television news reports and front pages. This week, the site is surrounded by orange fencing and warning signs.
"It's in the process of getting everything squared away before they can start," said Father Jerry Schetter, the parish priest. "They'll remove the riubble. So basically, it has to go to bids and then the insurance company has to approve the bids. "
When asked about rebuilding the church, Father said, "Why would I say no? The answer is yes! We won't know for sure until everything gets figured out. A lot of it depends on the administration of the Diocese. We're in a waiting game right now. But the insurance company is very thorough."
As for the rest of the county, Stechschulte stated that her office did site vists on Nov. 19 to residents who live in the path of the second storm cell. She said that area runs from CR 13-I and CR I up through West Leipsic. Although the National Weather Service did not confirm a second tornado in that location, Stechsulte said there were photographs taken from SR 613 in the area immediately south of CR 11 and CR 10 that indicate a second funnel cloud.
"As far as EMA involvement, we have pretty much done all that we can do. We are really taking a back seat now."
Stechschulte confirmed that the Nov. 17 storm damage was not enough to warrant federal aide. She also noted that no monetary aide is available through the State of Ohio. Governor Kasich has allocated resources from the Ohio Dept. of Transportation for hauling away debris or providing excavation equipment. Until those funds become available, however, the Putnam County Highway Department is providing those services at this time.
Stechschulte advises those who wish to assist in the recovery effort to make monetary donations through the Putnam County Long Term Recovery Task Force (LTRTF), a county-wide group of local and regional agencies and organizations created to provide assistance to those involved in disaster relief. The task force was active during the 2007 flooding in the Blanchard River Watershed, which devastated many homes and businesses. This task force was reactivated after the Nov. 17 storms. According to Stechschulte, no funds were given directly to individuals following the 2007 floods. Residents were required to submit bills and the fund paid the bills for them. This measure was taken to ensure the transparency and accountability of the process.
The LTRTF has established the "November 17th Recovery Fund". One hundred percent of monies donated to this task force remain local, as the mission of LTRTF is "placing recovery resources in the hands of those who need it most." Donations may be made at any Putnam County Huntington Bank or Fort Jennings State Bank. For a tax deductible donation, checks may be mailed to the "November 17th Recovery Fund" at P.O. Box 472, Ottawa, OH 45875. Ken Politz, Ottawa, chairs the fund.
'Right now the fund is somewhere in the area of $7,000. We are anticipating for that to grow," said Stechsculte. "We just have to keep the storm in the forefront of everyone's minds in order for those donations to keep coming in. "