Oakland, Macomb seek state of disaster declaration to help with tornado damage
Pontiac – Officials for Macomb and Oakland counties are asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency in the aftermath of last week's damaging tornadoes.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel on Friday declared a state of emergency, noting an EF1 tornado in Armada Township and Armada last Saturday "was severe and caused major damage in our communities."
"We are extremely thankful that no deaths or injuries occurred, but the ongoing recovery costs will be significant and so today we are declaring a state of emergency to seek any assistance available for these municipalities," Hackel said in a Friday statement.
Hackel's office said damage assessments indicated 116 structures were impacted by the storm and at least two were destroyed.
Oakland County Executive David Coulter also is asking the state to support a “state of disaster” declaration after damage to hundreds of homes and businesses when a tornado touched down Saturday in White Lake Township.
Both Hackel and Coulter are asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency and that consideration be given to making funds available to assist.
Hackel said support for the State Disaster and Emergency Contingency fund or any other sources “could offset costs incurred by public entities for public safety, debris management and economic recovery."
"Right now we estimate that both the Village of Armada and Armada Township expect to incur costs in excess of 15 percent of their annual general fund budget, and this will significantly impact their ability to operate," he added.
Coulter noted the tornado that touched down Saturday in White Lake Township damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.
Coulter’s request, sent Thursday to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, seeks assistance with debris removal, repair of damages caused by wind or flooding, repair or replacement of damaged equipment and reimbursement for overtime costs for first responders and other employees involved in clean-up activities.
The F-1 tornado touched down west of Teggerdine and Pontiac Lake Road at 7:54 p.m. Saturday and moved northeast with winds reaching 100 miles per hour. The twister’s path was 1.8 miles long and 400 yards wide, according to the National Weather Service. There were no serious injuries or deaths related to the violent storm. The county says 425 homes were affected, including 31 with major damage, and 70,000 Oakland County residents were left without power.
“The residents of White Lake have experienced what is, hopefully, a once in a lifetime event and they have persevered,” said White Lake Township Supervisor Rik Kowall who sent a request for a state of disaster declaration to the state on Sunday.
“We are thankful that there was no loss of life and it was great to see so many people come together to help each other,” Kowall said. “As I worked with the first responders on clearing roads until the early hours of Sunday morning, it was not unusual for random individuals to stop and assist us."
Kowall said he was proud of proud “of all our first responders and our resident’s resilience and sense of community.”
Coulter’s letter supporting White Lake’s request asks that consideration be given to forwarding any state declaration to the federal government for additional federal assistance.
“These natural disasters put tremendous strains, not only on families and businesses in communities, but also on local budgets,” said Coulter. “So any assistance we can get from our partners in the state and federal government is especially helpful.”
Thom Hardesty, director of Oakland County Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said the county had completed preliminary damage assessments to get qualified residents “the support they want and need.”
A disaster declaration helps free up state and federal assistance to provide resources and reimburse expenses incurred by the township in their efforts to clean up after a storm.
The last time a tornado touched down in Oakland County was on Sept. 21, 2014, when a F-1 tornado moved through Rochester Hills.
Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed.