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KY still strugglingafter May tornadoes

Several Kentucky communities continue their struggle to rebuild after several strong tornadoes struck the state in early May.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | May 31, 2003


"Hopefully this will open the door for people to get FEMA assistance."

—Rev. Kevin Cornette


Several Kentucky communities continue their struggle to rebuild after several strong tornadoes struck the state in early May.

The damage in three towns was fairly significant: in Charters, Lewis County, more than 30 people were injured and more than 100 buildings destroyed or damaged by an F3 twister.

In Mercer County, just north of Harrodsburg, officials estimated total property damage between $10-20 million. And, in Hardin County, more than 40 homes, most of them trailers, were damaged or destroyed. Both the tornadoes that hit Harrodsburg and Rineysville had a magnitude of F2, according to the National Weather Service.

While the initial recovery stage may be over, long-term efforts were mostly on hold, said the Rev. Kevin Cornette, pastor of the Hazleton Baptist Church in Tollesboro and president of the Lewis County Ministerial Association, mainly because groups like his interfaith committee were waiting to see if Kentucky would receive a federal disaster declaration.

That seems likely now, Cornette said, after the governor of Kentucky made a formal request to President Bush this week.

"Hopefully this will open the door for people to get FEMA assistance," he said. "The state is pretty sure that they will get the declaration. This may change the situation to where we wouldn't have to struggle by ourselves to get them the help they need."

Cornette's organization will have plenty of people to help, even if Kentucky does get FEMA assistance. In addition to tornado damage in Lewis County, there were also flooding and landslides. All this, on top of the severe ice storms that hit during the winter, has kept Cornette's group busy and also depleted its funds.

There are plenty of churches involved in the interfaith group eight full-time members and 30 in total but the need of disaster survivors has been high over the last few months, he said.

"We're about depleted now with all these disasters hitting us," Cornette said.

At least 22 homes incurred major damage from the storm, and five were destroyed. Another 35 to 40 homes were flooded, and five more were shifted on their foundations during landslides.

That's a tall order to handle Cornett said, considering that his organization, along with the American Red Cross, saw to providing meals for 3,000 people a day after the February ice storms, which left many people in the county without power for two weeks. The ministerial association also helped run an emergency shelter for eight days.

"There was not an area of the county that was not affected," he said.

Following the May storms, a large scale sheltering operation wasn't as necessary, but there was plenty of other work to do, such as the distribution of cleaning kits, hygiene kits, clothing, blankets and plenty of bottled water.

"Water was a big thing," Cornette said.

But until a decision is made at the White House, Cornette and his associates have people to help. Because of shifting earth, five families have had to move out of homes that were already displaced by landslides. These people are currently being put up in local motels, along with other residents left homeless by the tornado and the floods.

"Everybody is anxiously awaiting a declaration," he said.


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