"Tornado confirmed in Grove City, Ohio."
That news headline still echoes in my mind, as does the feeling of concern for the safety of my friends and neighbors in our beloved hometown.
Just a little after 5 p.m. April 3, 2018, our community was delivered a challenge like we had not seen in decades, with seemingly little warning. Sirens provided a heads-up as the approaching storm entered the Grove City limits and residents took shelter. Fortunately, school dismissals were complete and most students were already home.
Some residents were still on the road and narrowly escaped the 32 downed power poles connecting 46 miles of wire and the debris flying from any of the nearly 900 damaged residences, businesses and falling trees.
Though seven individuals were trapped in their vehicles by fallen live power lines -- some for hours -- all were rescued by first responders without injury. In some cases, our paved bike trails provided the only access to aiding affected residents.
The city's Emergency Command Center operates through a National Incident Management System to respond to emergency disaster events. Implementing and practicing a response has evolved over the last five years. The NIMS training enabled the city's rapid response to the tornado with a plan to quickly assess the damage, determine the community's needs and expedite services.
Grove City has been recognized for its complete disaster-recovery program, including timely damage documentation for the National Weather Service, allowing them to quickly determine the EF-scale rating of the tornado and prompting praise for the city's preparedness. Since the event, we have been approached by other central Ohio communities to discuss the NIMS response program.
Recovery costs topped more than $35 million as the city, local businesses and residents worked to repair the damage by winds up to 105 mph, flooded basements and losses from the effects of going without electricity for hours or days.
Though there is still some work to be done, the recovery of challenging critical needs was swift, thanks to the incredible support of our community and dedicated businesses such as AEP, working day and night through a myriad of weather conditions that followed the tornado.
One year later, there is next to no evidence that the EF1 tornado ever touched down in Grove City, with the exception of newly rebuilt or repaired houses, fresh roofs and incredibly sturdy replacement power poles.
As I've often said, our community is the real story of success in our efforts to move past last year's event. We are forever grateful for the support of neighbors, local businesses, charitable organizations and individuals who carried out multitudes of kind deeds. This is an appropriate time -- April is Volunteer Month -- to again recognize and show appreciation to all our community volunteers.
Having experienced the heartbreak of this calamity and witnessing the outpouring of volunteer efforts and support that rose from it, I can say Grove City's recovery isn't just about repaired homes, cleaned-up debris and sturdy power poles. It's about community.
Our hometown is one that embodies an evolved definition of community, beyond the simple location-based description. We are linked geographically and organizationally, but more importantly, by a shared emotional connection -- a sense of togetherness.
We are a unique neighborhood of caring residents -- true before, during and since the tornado. Maybe news headlines in the months following the tornado should have read, "Community confirmed in Grove City, Ohio."
Mayor Richard L. "Ike" Stage is serving his fifth term as mayor.