‘Kokomo came through’: Next round of tornado help set to begin

Next month, the next phase of Kokomo tornado help should start, which is months before the 2013 tornado. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

KOKOMO, Ind (WISH) – Kokomo tornado victims feel for those impacted by Hurricane Matthew, as the next phase of help starts in Howard County.

Some Kokomo streets are still in pieces from August’s tornadoes. While some homeowners need to start work, others, including Robert Esposito got started right away.

They are efforts he hoped would wipe away tornado memories. “It got very cold inside the house, and I stood up when the cold temperature came in,” Esposito said. “I could hear the hail hitting the windows, and the next thing I knew, all the windows broke where I was sitting.”

The cleanup helped, but Esposito said recent Southeast images changed things. “I kept hearing about Hurricane Matthew,” Esposito said. “It was the same as the day of the tornado, and some things came back to me that were not pleasant.”

This is a new challenge for local leaders. After helping with the immediate crisis, the next phase for victims will start soon.

“As we move into long-term recovery we’ll be able to address those specific needs,” long-term recovery committee case management supervisor, Stephanie Berghoff said.

Right now, the area’s long-term recovery committee is dealing with 340 cases. Help is on the way.

Next month, assessments will start. Much quicker than three years ago when Kokomo neighbors had to wait five months after a tornado hit.

“This time we are using the benefit of our experience,” Berghoff said. Volunteers are needed too. People can either help with assessments, or sign-up for labor work.

The city is also offering help by waiving all permitting fees, right down dumpsters, which means people are able to throw things away, and save hundreds of dollars. Between what the city is doing and local agencies, neighbors believe the community will come back.

“Coming from a big city, and coming into a smaller city, like Kokomo, I had some doubts as to whether I would be happy here. But you know what, Kokomo came through,” Esposito said.

The committee is still accepting cases. If you need help, call 211. If you’re looking for volunteer information, click here.