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Local restaurant raises money to help community after tornado

By Jamie Sherrod

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    PORT AUSTIN, Michigan (WNEM) — A local restaurant is raising money to help it’s community after a tornado battered residents around Port Austin.

“Emotionally, physically, it just weighed on you to see the mass devastation that mother nature can do,” said Jason Zimmerman, assistant chief of the Port Austin Fire Department.

Zimmerman recalled the chaos of the night when an EF-2 tornado swept through Port Austin.

“We get tornado warnings all the time, a lot of times we don’t take them that serious because we’re by the water and we’ve never had a tornado,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said all hands were on deck at the Port Austin Fire Department, calling in reinforcements and responding to destroyed homes.

“This will completely change the way that we take tornadoes and all severe weather,” Zimmerman said.

But even with this disaster, a surprise, some might even say, a miracle. The tornado spared a restaurant bustling with customers.

It was a full house at Bird Creek Farms when the tornado hit. It damaged a nearby bar and homes but miraculously this restaurant was still standing.

“They were able to get everyone inside. They kept everyone low and safe,” Zimmerman said.

It was a close call for the more than 80 guests and staff.

“Those folks came together, did a great job getting everybody out of there and then four days later put on a phenomenal fundraiser,” Zimmerman said.

The fundraiser took place on July 1 at the restaurant and raised more than $41,000.

The owner modestly declined to go on camera. Instead, he wanted actions to speak louder than words by paying it forward to the Port Austin Fire Department for working tirelessly during and after the tragedy, and to help the agency buy new equipment.

Zimmerman said the support all around means everything

“The community came together at our most desperate time,” Zimmerman said.

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