AP

Four months after tornado, Kentucky focuses on rebuilding

Apr 24, 2022, 6:46 AM | Updated: Apr 25, 2022, 11:56 am

CORRECTS STATE TO KENTUCKY INSTEAD OF TENNESSEE - A flag hangs near the remains of a home destroyed...

CORRECTS STATE TO KENTUCKY INSTEAD OF TENNESSEE - A flag hangs near the remains of a home destroyed in a Dec. 10 tornado on April 21, 2022, in Dawson Springs, Ky. Four months after a massive tornado tore through the state, hundreds of Kentuckians are arduously reconstructing their pre-storm existence. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — Sundays at the Bullock home in rural Kentucky were filled with lasting memories: big family dinners, cornhole, basketball and karaoke.

Those gatherings ended the night of Dec. 10, when a massive tornado obliterated their Dawson Springs house, trapping Chris Bullock, 17-year-old son Stevie and miniature poodle Dewey under a crumbled brick wall in the basement. Her husband pulled them from the rubble with minor injuries, but the house where she and her family lived for 26 years was gone.

“There were things we were never able to find,” Bullock told The Associated Press recently. “Our neighbor’s dryer was in our yard. We found our ketchup but we couldn’t find our refrigerator.”

Four months after the tornado upended her family’s lives, Chris Bullock and hundreds of other Kentuckians are arduously reconstructing their pre-storm existence. Thanks to a vast network of municipal workers, contractors, churches, charities and volunteers, communities like Dawson Springs, Mayfield and Bowling Green are edging toward recovery.

The storm system that spawned the deadly tornado tore through a handful of states. The National Weather Service recorded 41 tornadoes on Dec. 10 and 11, including 16 in Tennessee and eight in Kentucky. Eighty-one people died in Kentucky alone, state officials said. Thousands found shelter with relatives and friends, or in emergency facilities, hotels and state parks.

In Mayfield, a candle factory, a nursing home and government buildings were destroyed. Homes were ripped from foundations and splintered by fierce winds. Crews worked day and night to clear debris and restore power.

Audible evidence of rebuilding in Mayfield has been difficult to miss: the cracking and crashing of excavators breaking apart wood and glass, the beep-beep-beep of heavy machinery reversing, the popping of roofers’ nail guns.

In an AP interview, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said removing debris and finding temporary housing were early priorities after the tornado. More recently, attention has turned to keeping residents in Kentucky.

“These are towns that have almost been wiped off the map,” Beshear said. “We will continue to be concerned about getting people back on their feet and concerned about not losing the population of these towns.”

Some have moved to more permanent shelter, including travel trailers, the governor said. In Graves County, tiny homes were approved for displaced residents, and several larger homes are being built in Mayfield, emergency management Director Tracy Warner said.

“We really hold the future of Mayfield and Graves County in our hands,” Warner said. “And that is scary, yet exciting.”

Although there’s cause for optimism, progress remains slow in places. In Dawson Springs, where Bullock and her family now live in a camper, the 54-year-old registered nurse said she has seen just a few houses being rebuilt, and some friends say they won’t stay.

Bullock and her husband had paid off their home but didn’t have insurance. A disaster-response charity is helping them build a new house on their property, and Bullock hopes to see a day when their family gatherings resume.

“Sundays were fun days. … I just want to have that again,” she said.

Beshear, a Democrat, said millions in housing assistance payments from a state relief fund are being distributed. About $64 million in federal assistance has been approved for storm victims in Kentucky, with some aid targeting temporary housing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said.

Recovery will take “a couple of years, but it shouldn’t take any longer,” Beshear said. “There are days that it’s a little more frustrating, … but we are going to get this done.”

After the storm, bottled water, diapers and other supplies poured in from across the country. Heartland Church in Paducah became a collection point as volunteers with trucks and trailers made deliveries. The Rev. Marc Glass and volunteers loaded a church outbuilding and a donated warehouse with everything from paper towels to toys.

Herschel Evans, a driver for the American Trucking Association’s Share the Road program, volunteered to drive a bright blue, 53-foot-long semitrailer full of supplies from Atlanta to Paducah.

“I don’t have a lot of money, but I’ve got skills,” Evans said. “I’ve got the ability to move that truck around the country.”

Heartland’s relief efforts have shifted to rebuilding, with donated furniture and beds for those who have found new places to live. But Glass said the church’s community spirit goes further than that.

“We don’t simply care about your physical needs, but we care about you as a whole person. We care about your soul,” he said.

In Dawson Springs, charity group God’s Pit Crew is rebuilding Chris Bullock’s home free of charge.

The nonprofit, based in Danville, Virginia, uses donated equipment and volunteer workers to rebuild houses after disasters ranging from hurricanes to forest fires, said Chris Chiles, a staff member with the group.

Chiles led a convoy carrying about $1 million worth of heavy machinery, tree removal tools and a shower to Kentucky in January. God’s Pit Crew also brings volunteers who counsel victims.

“There’s more healing that goes on with that than putting a tarp on their roof. They can sit with someone and let them know that somebody cares about them,” Chiles said.

Bullock and her husband thought briefly about leaving Dawson Springs or finding an existing home rather than rebuild on their property, “but we lived in that house for 26 years and we raised five children there.”

“It’s just home,” she said. “It just didn’t feel right to be anywhere else.”

___

Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Most Americans are sleepy new Gallup poll finds...

Associated Press

Most Americans say they don’t get enough sleep, according to new Gallup poll

A new Gallup poll found that most Americans are sleepy — or, at least, they say they are. Multiple factors play into this.

19 hours ago

Near-total abortion ban in Arizona dates back to Civil War era...

Associated Press

Near-total abortion ban dates back to 1864, during the Civil War, before Arizona was a state

The near-total abortion ban resurrected last week by the Arizona Supreme Court dates to 1864, when settlers were encroaching on tribal lands.

20 hours ago

Tracy Toulou...

Associated Press

How to tackle crime in Indian Country? Empower tribal justice, ex-Justice Department official says

A recently retired director of the Justice Dept. says the federal government hasn't given tribal justice systems equal recognition.

2 days ago

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson...

Associated Press

House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will push for aid to Israel and Ukraine this week

House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday he will try to advance wartime aid for Israel this week, along with funding for Ukraine.

2 days ago

President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign rally Saturday, March 9, 2024, at Pullman Yards in Atlanta...

Associated Press

US shoots down ‘nearly all’ Iran-launched attack drones as Biden vows support for Israel’s defense

Joe Biden cut short a weekend stay at his beach house to meet with his national security team as Iran launched an attack against Israel.

3 days ago

Protesters in Phoenix shout as they join thousands marching around the Arizona state Capitol after ...

Associated Press

Abortion ruling supercharges Arizona to be an especially important swing state

A ruling this week instituting a near-total abortion ban supercharged Arizona's role, turning it into the most critical battleground.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

Four months after tornado, Kentucky focuses on rebuilding