From rescue to restoration in Laurel County

By: Tim Johnston Email
By: Tim Johnston Email

More than 200 homes are damaged, and roughly 64 homes are completely gone after Friday evening's EF-2 tornado hit East Bernstadt.

In that time, crews have found five dead and dozens more injured, meanwhile some homes are still standing but others are nearly erased.

"Everything is down, no trees, no homes, no nothing," described Tina Eversole, a survivor of Friday night's tornado in Laurel County.

Eversole says she miraculously survived the EF-2 tornado by hiding under a couch in her family's hallway. Though she's grateful, she has nothing left but a few items.

"I don't have anything, except a shoe here and there, and none of them match," said Eversole.

Eversole is not alone, many across Laurel County are in need of basic supplies from food to personal hygiene products, and the American Red Cross is ready and waiting to help.

"The Red Cross is not everything to everyone, but we work with other organizations and together we become everything to everyone," said Coy Pritchard of the American Red Cross Southeastern Kentucky division.

Still, there is a lot of work to do to clean up the hard-hit areas.

"You just kind of jump in wherever and try to find personal belongings, pictures, and stuff like that, that you can't replace," said Shawn Smith after helping patch holes to a family member's home.

The county's emergency management says they feel everyone is accounted for and have stopped the search and rescue efforts and are focusing now on restoring power, phones, and clearing debris. However, that won't be a quick and easy job.

"We're going to have to take it one day at a time, but we'll make it through it," Abby Hale, Emergency Management Director for Laurel County, said.

Sunday's weather did not want to cooperate, either, as temperatures and snow flakes were falling across the area.

"We had 70-degrees the last two or three days, then a tornado, and then [on Sunday] it was heavy snow [flakes]," chuckled Eversole about the weather.

"We're urging people that do not have electricity or heat to go to the shelters. It's going to be cold tonight, and we're hoping that they'll listen and seek refuge in the shelters," stated Hale.

Even in the face of adversity, this community refuses to break, knowing that they've already won just by surviving.

Shelters are set up in various places, and the Red Cross says they hope to be able to go into some of the harder hit neighborhoods and go directly to the victims that refuse to leave their homes behind.

On Friday, the Red Cross had to stop taking in donations because they had no room to store the items, but that has since evened out and they are accepting all non-perishable items and hygiene products.

To find out how you can get involved call 606-878-6333.

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