On the road to recovery: Bowling Green community mobilizes after deadly tornado

A global pandemic has made the past year and a half stressful to say the least, and even Mother Nature screams at times.

“This is the worst tornado event we’ve ever seen,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at a Bowling Green press conference on Saturday afternoon.

Beshear became moved as he spoke to the Bowling Green Police Department, hours after an EF-3 tornado swept through the town in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

“It’s really hard and really painful,” Beshear commented. “I spent eight hours wondering if any of my cousins ​​were still alive.”

The Warren County coroner has confirmed 11 deaths, including children, and that number could rise as more victims are discovered under the debris.

Members of a multigenerational family living under one roof count their blessings after losing their home in the tornado. Eric Alford was asleep around 1:30 a.m. when the storm swept through his neighborhood.

“The alarms went off on our phones and it woke us up and all of a sudden it looked like a freight train,” Alford recalls. “It was loud and vicious and it didn’t last long. He mowed down here pretty quickly.

The roof of Alford’s house on Ewing Ford Road was completely washed away and almost everything inside was destroyed by wind or water damage. The house’s most precious possessions have been saved. Alford, his wife and two sons, as well as his daughter-in-law and newborn grandchild were all able to make it to the basement of the house. At dawn, Alford’s son Travis enlisted friends to help remove material things.

“Right now we are trying to get clothes, valuables out of the house because when the rain comes later, if it did, anything that was left in the house would be considered a total loss,” Alford explained. “And if someone decides to take it over, we don’t try to give them much to take.

Crystal Cavanah’s family were also spared the storms. They live on Willow Way in the Briarwood neighborhood. A tree crossed her daughter’s room, but she was not home.

“No, I spent the night with a friend. Thank goodness, ”Cavanah exclaimed!

Emergency sirens roared and chainsaws buzzed amid blackouts and completely uprooted trees along Willow Way, but neighbors gathered to begin the cleanup.

Across town, a decades-long staple on the Bowling Green ring road was another tornado victim. The Cardinal Motel, built in the 1960s, is now owned by Ped Deasi, who said the destruction was overwhelming.

“I feel like it’s a total loss because you can see the whole roof collapsing and the rooms are destroyed, the furniture inside is wet and everything,” Deasi pointed out.

Oddly enough, the iconic statue of the Red Cardinal in front of the motel was not affected by the tornado. Desai (Duh-sye) says he hopes to rebuild in the same place. His family live in an apartment attached to the motel and are among the displaced residents of Warren County.

The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at South Warren Middle School. Managing Director Jennifer Capps said it was the worst local disaster she had seen in her career.

“So it’s my 15th birthday with the Red Cross,” Capps said. It’s horrible. You don’t even see that in the movies. It is heartbreaking. I cannot imagine what these families are going through.

The Red Cross provides housing, food, medical and mental health services. About 40 tornado victims came to the shelter during the day on Saturday and Capps expected more by nightfall.

She thanked the community for the “non-stop” donations of food, clothing, diapers and hygiene items.

“At this point we’re just trying to organize it and make sure everything is in place. Then we’ll probably ask the community to stop this effort and then donate money, ”Capps explained. “I’m also asking them to make sure those blood appointments over the next few weeks are met so that we get the blood on the shelves that we need.”

Abby Haynes, a student at Western Kentucky Unviersity, helped sort the clothes at the shelter.

“We take coats, separating the coats between men and women, and different sizes,” Haynes commented. “It’s really cool to see the overflow of things being brought in, the people who want to stay and help sort out, and just come together and help everyone in the community.

Another shelter volunteer was Jessica Murray, a registered nurse at TJ Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow.

“I was seeing everything on social media and I contacted the Red Cross and asked if they needed any medical help and they said to me, ‘Sure, come down.’ I just helped with basic first aid and helped people get the medical supplies they might need to get them through this time, ”Murray said.

Although she only treated minor injuries, she was also on the lookout for signs of hypothermia as the displaced residents worked all day in the freezing and humid conditions, working in their gardens and collecting what they had. could from their homes.

Robert Valdivieso was fine physically, but emotionally he was shaken. He and his wife live on Village Creek Drive just off Russellville Road. The events of the morning repeated themselves in his head.

“There were winds and then the winds got stronger. Then we heard debris hitting the outside of the building. We heard windows crashing and the roof coming off the top of the house, ”recalls Valdivieso. “At one point, as we were hiding in the tub, I could feel the floor lift up, so it lifted us up. I was afraid for my life. “

Valdivieso never thought he would be in this situation, but he was happy to find refuge at the shelter.

“I’m very impressed with how quickly people have come together and made it all available,” he said. “I am very blessed and it inspires me to do the same when I get the chance.”

The tornado struck exactly two weeks before Christmas, and for Valdivieso he now understands more than ever that it’s not what is under the tree, but who is around. He added that it’s about keeping things in perspective.

“There were three houses behind us that completely disappeared and they pulled our neighbors out of a pile of rubble this morning,” he said. “Other people have it worse than us.

As the road to recovery is long, the sun will shine again on my old Kentucky home.

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