As families wade through tornado debris, experts warn of scams

Ionia County

ODESSA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — With utility gloves on her hands and loved ones in mind, Sarah Bear on Monday waded through debris that a severe storm left behind at her family’s Lake Odessa-area home over the weekend.

“Right now it’s just that, picking up the pieces,” Bear said. “Complete and utter heartache.”

The storm ripped through a family barn that’s been on her property since 1882. The house is still standing.

“From swinging on the rope, to climbing up the walls, we spent a lot of time in that barn, and it’s going to be dearly missed by a multitude of individuals,” Bear said.

A flattened barn near Lake Odessa two days after a tornado tore through the region. (June 28, 2021)

She refused to let the damage overshadow the memories the barn left behind. In fact, she tried to salvage what’s left, calling the insurance adjuster for guidance.

“I’m just waiting for a call back, ” Bear said. “I’m assuming everybody’s real busy, but I’m hopeful they will be helping out, especially with the cleanup.”

In the meantime, experts warn that scammers troll for victims following natural disasters. Troy Baker of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan said some will pretend to be from insurance or contracting companies to take clients’ money and run.

“Be aware of any insurance company that is making these offers that doesn’t sound right,” Baker said. “Talk to your insurance company, get references, do some homework ahead of time before you hire someone.”

Meanwhile, Bear’s journey to recovery continues with the help of loved ones and even strangers. She said the silver lining in all of the destruction is community support, highlighting strangers who chose to help her cleanup instead of going to church.

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