Battle Creek/ Calhoun County Declared Disaster Area

By: Jamie Edmonds Email
By: Jamie Edmonds Email

Drive down any street in Battle Creek and this is what you find: massive trees uprooted, cars destroyed, homes damaged. Sunday's storm left behind a path of destruction residents have never seen before.

"We couldn't see our house from the road," John Willavize said. "Literally every single tree on our road is down."

Willavize was having an early Memorial Day party Sunday when he heard the tornado sirens, so the whole family went to the basement.

"We were down there maybe five minutes and everything quieted down, came back up and this is what I camp up to," he said.

Shawn Dougherty of Emmett Township had just returned home with his family, when he says the storm came on very quickly.

"They just got in the back door then all of sudden the wind picked up and things started hitting the house," Dougherty said. "We ran down into the basement."

After five minutes of fury, this is what's left. The National Weather Service did not call Sunday's storm a tornado, they say it was heavy straight-line winds.

At one time, nearly half of Consumer's Energy's Battle Creek customers were without power. Now, more than 400 utility, line clearing and contract crews, including some from Indiana and Ohio are working to restore power.

Businesses and schools remain closed. The governor declared a disaster area for Calhoun County Tuesday. The Battle Creek City Manager said Wednesday he's meeting with county, state, and federal officials to coordinate the cleanup process.

Because it was declared a disaster area, that means state dollars are coming to help. A Homeland Security Spokesperson said their priority will be clearing debris off of streets and roads, so emergency vehicles can pass through.

Three days out, residents are still working to clean up their properties, and trying to keep up a sense of humor.

"If anyone needs any wood, we have plenty," Willavize said.

Battle Creek Police said extra officers will be patrolling the damaged areas because there have been a few reports of people stealing downed lines. The City Manager said it's too early to put a price on the damage, or to even know the extent of it yet.

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