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Gaylord begins path to recovery; FEMA to access damage

Frank Claeys is the Chief of Police for the City of Gaylord.
Rick Brewer
Frank Claeys is the Chief of Police for the City of Gaylord.

Gaylord Chief of Police Brian Claeys said he has been working with state emergency management officials to help access damage caused by an EF-3 tornado that ripped Gaylord last Friday. On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that her request for an expedited analysis of the damage for federal relief was granted.

Just days after a tornado devastated parts of the City of Gaylord, the cleanup efforts are largely finished and almost all power is restored. But, there’s still a lot of work ahead.

Some of the biggest challenges ahead in Gaylord are going through debris, assessing the damage, and getting homes and businesses restored.

Frank Claeys is the Chief of Police in Gaylord. He says the big-box stores are more well equipped than most of the local businesses, who are going through this for the first time.

"They're resilient," said Claeys. "They've got the buildings boarded up, and they're in contact with their insurance companies as well. And I know they've been doing a lot of things for those people that have lost employment temporarily because of their places of work being damaged."

The tornado claimed the lives of two people and injured 44, and caused widespread damage in Gaylord’s business district and nearby residential areas.

Claeys mentioned the state aviation unit completed an aerial survey of the damage and their conclusion was that this tornado was "probably the number two worst scene that they had seen and probably the most residential. And for us to have had it on a Friday after school got out and to have kids in school on Monday is pretty amazing."

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will begin its review of the damage faster than anticipated.

The review, which starts Wednesday, will help state and federal officials determine the extent of relief the city of Gaylord and residents will receive for damages caused by the tornado

The review process will be comprised of state and federal officials, along with local personnel like Chief Claeys.

"We're still working with them, and state emergency management to see where kind of this will fall for reimbursement to community services, and still assessing the damage that's there from a dollar amount as well," Claeys said.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.