Kent Co. officials: Tornado caused $4.5M in damage


KENT COUNTY, Mich. (WOOD) – Kent County officials say the EF-1 tornado that swept through Wyoming and Kentwood Sunday caused an estimated $4.5 million in damage to private property.

The tornado, which the National Weather Service referred to as a “spin-up,” started on the ground without warning southwest of the M-6/US-131 interchange and moved up a six-mile path northeast through Kentwood.

Kent County Emergency Management Director Jack Stewart told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday that 2,000 pieces of property were affected by the storm, ranging from those that were covered by tree branches to those that had structural damage.

Of the 2,000 properties affected, 270 had structural damage, and 22 people were still staying in shelters as of late Wednesday morning, according to Stewart.

>>Photos: Aftermath of the tornado

Theresa Johnson’s home was among those that sustained damage.

Her family decided to extend their Fourth of July vacation until Monday. That was a good thing. They normally gather on Sunday nights in their living room where a fallen tree branch now sits.

“The recliner where our kids would sit, that’s where it landed,” Johnson said as assessment and cleanup crews worked around her home Wednesday.

She and her neighbors along 48th Street have been dealing with the noise, dust and hassle of the cleanup. Their roof needs repair, trees need to be cut off and carted off, and the damage left a mess inside.

Then there’s the cost of being without electricity for days.

“Food, hotel stays … it’s going to add up,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she’s too busy to add up the costs, but she’s confident insurance will cover it. At this point, the dollars were a secondary concern.

“Everything in our house can be replaced. No one was hurt,” she said.

The $4.5 million damage estimate is about a third of the price tag of the historic flood of April 2013, when the area had plenty of warning time.

And unlike the tornado damage, most flood damage was to roadways and  other public property — not homes and businesses in a concentrated area.

Stewart said he does not expect a disaster declaration from the state because most of the damage was to private property. Public facilities that would be covered by a declaration, like roads, bridges and government owned buildings, seem to have escaped the storms wrath.

Emergency Management Director Stewart said the county used a drone Tuesday to get a better sense of the scope of the damage from the tornado, which had wind speeds of up to 100 mph.

“This is my third tornado and this is the first one that hit a residential area,” Stewart said. “And we’re very fortunate. We’re aware of only six injuries and I’m not aware that they were serious injuries.”

>>Watch: Bird’s-eye view of the damage

Another problem for residents along 48th Street near Blaine Avenue has been gawkers — the people driving around the neighborhood apparently just curious about the damage.

Wednesday, Kentwood police were also on the block, which is closed to traffic with barricades, and they were writing tickets.

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