Memorial Day Tornadoes: Remembering the destruction, devastation 4 years later

More than 800 properties were damaged or destroyed in Dayton on Memorial Day 2019 when a violent EF4 tornado ripped through that part of Montgomery County.

Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs went back to Old North Dayton to see how residents are recovering four years later and found a renewed hope for an old city.

On Macready Street in Old North Dayton, a lot has changed in the last four years. While some of the scars are still visible, it’s clear the community is building back, better than ever.

John Shafter, who lives in the community, said, “I and my wife was in the bedroom lying there and the alarms went off. I was like there isn’t nothing coming,”

Shafer remembers how quickly the weather changed that night.

“Went off the second time and I said, ‘Man I’m going to go out there and look outside,’ That tree right there was blowing over. I went to the basement then I come back up and it was all over,” Shafer said.

This part of Old North Dayton was severely damaged by the tornado. Businesses, homes, and landscapes were torn apart.

“Telephone poles down there ripped them out like toothpicks, twisted them,” Shafer said.

But now, there’s renewed hope in town.

Matthew Tepper, President of the Old North Dayton Neighborhood Association, said, “The future, well it’s never looked brighter.”

According to Tepper, the community is looking better than ever.

“Every time I come down this street, there’s something new. Right behind us is a new tree that was not there the last time I came down,” Tepper said. “Up the street I see new siding going up on a house that was previously vacant.”

>> THE FIRST PHOTOS: Daylight revealed widespread damage from 2019 Memorial Day storms

The progress this community has made has given residents a new perspective on life.

“People appreciate what they have rather than what they could lose. Now, that they understand what they could lose,” Tepper said.

All of this provides a fresh start for an old town.

Brookville

The Memorial Day tornadoes also ripped through parts of Brookville, leaving dozens of homes and businesses damaged.

Craig McCarty, a Brookville resident, said, “Well, you don’t take the warning for granted anymore.”

Memories of that day are still fresh in the minds of the residents.

Kayla Benton said, “It went dark, and it went quiet. Then, the tornado came right down the street.”

Benton said the EF2 tornado destroyed her family’s Terrace Park home.

“I could hear the tornado sirens for a split second and I thought we should get into the hallway,” Benton said.

Benton’s home was reduced to nothing more than a concrete slab.

“Well, that’s what they don’t show in the movies – the aftermath. And, how long it takes to get it back together,” McCarty said.

McCarty compared his experience of that night t the Wizard of Oz. “Everything was moving. Debris flying everywhere and as soon as I turned around the windows blew up,” he said.

News Center 7′s I-Team learned more than 100 properties were damaged or destroyed in Brookville that day and most were in the Terrace Park neighborhood.

“There was a lot of people that didn’t rebuild, they just left,” McCarty said.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been four years since the tornadoes hit. The lot where Benton’s home used to be is now an empty lot. However, there are signs of a new home to come as new water lines were put in.

>> THE FIRST PHOTOS: Daylight revealed widespread damage from 2019 Memorial Day storms

It’s unknown if Benton and her family are returning to Terrace Park, but McCarty said, he has too many memories here to move away.

“It’s my home. We’re not going to leave. The kids grew up here. There’s no way I would leave,” McCarty said.

Although the landscape has changed, it’s clear that Terrace Park and Brookville are making a comeback.

Trotwood

The largest, an EF4 tornado carved a 20-mile path of destruction through Montgomery County on Memorial Day 2019. The city of Trotwood was one of the hardest-hit communities.

Laquita Abrams remembers what it was like that day as a life-threatening tornado ripped through her neighborhood.

“My sister called and was like ‘It’s a tornado on the way. Look at the news,’” Abrams said. “I heard something outside and I looked outside, and the tornado was already here.”

With winds approaching 170 mph, residents in that Trotwood neighborhood were bracing for the worst.

“That house over there was two elderly people that over there. I can remember us walking over there because there were stuck under their beds in the room and we had to go help pull them out,” Abrams said.

According to the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, more than 1,000 properties in Trotwood were impacted by the tornado that night, including one home that never recovered.

“It took a while for everything to be normal. For people to start getting their houses back together,” Abrams said.

As of today, nearly 90 percent of Trotwood has been restored.