Snyder declares Ionia County a disaster area

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of disaster Monday for Ionia County, which was hit by a June 22 tornado that caused heavy damage but no deaths in the city of Portland and two adjoining townships.

The declaration makes available state resources to assist recovery efforts. The Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division will coordinate state efforts, according to the announcement.

“Portland area residents and businesses came together after the tornado, showing the great sense of community that exists across our state,” Snyder said. “Neighbors helped neighbors, businesses helped volunteers, and everyone worked as a team to clean up.”

Snyder also is making the state’s Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund available to local governments in Ionia County. Communities can apply for grants up to $100,000.

The EF1-rated tornado severely damaged homes, businesses, churches and public buildings.

Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, deputy state director of emergency management and homeland security, said his team is working with the community to clear debris and stabilize damaged buildings.

The county already was under a local state of emergency, which activated local response and recovery efforts. The county sought state help to protect public health and property, Snyder said.

About two weeks ago, five people were rescued from buildings after the tornado hit, damaging a Rite-Aid pharmacy and a Goodwill store.

A mother and two small children inside the Goodwill used items store were trapped for about 10 minutes after the storm rolled through, said John Baker, chief of the Portland Area Fire Authority. Two others were helped from the pharmacy.

In addition, the storm also overturned recreational and utility trailers and toppled some small garages.

GHeinlein@detroitnews.com