KY responders pull together

Disaster responders in Hopkinsville, Ken., say they are amazed by how well everyone is working together after a tornado roared through in early April.

BY HEATHER MOYER | HOPKINSVILLE, Ken. | April 12, 2006



"We're very fortunate to live in a community with a lot of caring people."

—Cong. Ed Whitfield


Disaster responders in Hopkinsville, Ken., say they are amazed by how well everyone is working together after a tornado roared through in early April.

"Things are working smoothly," said Matt Snorton, director of Christian County Emergency Management. "People are cleaning up the debris. They're showing up with trucks and backhoes and pitching in. They're really taking care of each other."

The workload is large after the April 2 tornado. Rated an F3 on the Fujita scale, the twister destroyed 88 homes and severely damaged 157 others. Another 100 were affected, with Snorton estimating the total loss at around $26 million.

The 15-mile stretch of destruction across Christian County spanned mostly rural farmland north of Hopkinsville. Many residents unable to live in their homes are staying with friends and family for now.

Members of the Kentucky chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (KYVOAD) are in touch with local agencies about forming a long-term recovery organization. Some representatives attended a public forum Monday night to see if the need emerged, but said it may take a few weeks before the formation happens. Mary Anna Speller, chair of KYVOAD, said she is waiting to hear from local agencies on whether they need help in forming the organization.

Major Jean Wilson of The Salvation Army said she knows of a few churches assisting in the response, two of which are housing a canteen unit to feed residents and volunteers. "We've seen 30 people come into our offices for individual help, but we do expect more," added Wilson.

At Monday night's public forum, several hundred residents listened to local and state officials talk about the recovery process.

Congressman Ed Whitfield praised the responders and the residents for taking such good care of each other. "We're very fortunate to live in a community with a lot of caring people," said Whitfield.

Later, much of the audience raised their hands when Whitfield asked who in the audience had their homes destroyed or rendered unliveable.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher also spoke Monday, assuring residents the state would help them recover in any way he could. "I can't imagine what it's like for you families that lost everything," said Fletcher. "We can't bring it all back, but we can bring hope and assurance that we're with you. We want to do everything we can to help you."

During the session, many residents asked questions about the Federal Emergency Management Agency, debris cleanup, working with insurance companies and help for residents who are more isolated from the community.

Wilson noted that she expects the forum to alert more people of the available help. "Many folks are isolated because they're staying with family. They'll start coming forward for more help later."

Snorton agreed. "This will be a long recovery. This storm shook us badly, but there is an amazing recovery effort taking place so far. We still need help, but so far I'm just amazed and standing in awe of the people that have just rolled up their sleeves to help out. It's wonderful."


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