Rebuilding tornado-ravaged Kentucky town could take years

Dec 16, 2021, 8:03 AM | Updated: 10:07 pm
Harley Kelso, 60, speaks while standing outside of his tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky. on Thu...

Harley Kelso, 60, speaks while standing outside of his tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky. on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021. “I lost my car and the corner of my porch," Kelso said. “I'm just glad everyone in the neighborhood survived." (AP Photo/Sean Murphy)

(AP Photo/Sean Murphy)

MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) — Although his birthday is still a few days away, 60-year-old Harley Kelso knows what he’s getting from his sister.

The retired truck driver, whose home and car were battered by last week’s tornado — one of dozens that ripped across the South and Midwest, killing at least 90 people — said his sister is bringing chainsaws and her two sons to his home in hard-hit Mayfield to cut apart a tree that’s resting on his family’s minivan.

“I lost my car and the corner of my porch,” Kelso said, sporting a T-shirt that read World’s Greatest Papa. “I’m just glad everyone in the neighborhood survived.”

Such gratitude may sound odd in the aftermath of a long-track tornado that demolished huge parts of Mayfield, but it’s a common refrain these days in this tight-knit community of 10,000 people.

Even with his minivan crumpled under a giant tree, most of his front yard hanging from its roots, smashed windows and a home with no power or running water, Kelso says he’s well aware that things could have been worse — and resolute if not downright upbeat about the task ahead.

“I’m going to bring a hot breakfast to my daughter,” he said with a smile, clutching a bag of breakfast tacos dropped off by one of the dozens of volunteers combing the neighborhood, offering a hot meal or a cold drink.

President Joe Biden, who visited the community Wednesday and described the damage as some of the worst he’s seen, vowed the full support of the federal government to help the town rebuild.

“I intend to do whatever it takes as long as it takes to support your state, your local leaders, as you recover and rebuild, and you will recover and rebuild,” the president said, standing before a decimated town center.

Among the biggest and most pressing challenges facing Mayfield and other devastated communities is removing the mountains of debris that the storms turned homes and businesses into, Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said.

“This is going to be one of the largest pieces of the recovery,” Dossett said Thursday during a press conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort. “Debris removal is one of the most important pieces because it is part and parcel to rebuilding not just the city infrastructure, but for all of our homeowners.”

In neighborhoods across the city, yards and streets are filled with debris: downed tree limbs, shingles, mangled children’s toys, mud-caked clothes. Trees that haven’t been uprooted completely have had upper branches shorn off. Others have crashed into cars or homes.

Many houses have had roofs torn off or been pulled from their foundations. Others have been reduced to nothing more than a massive pile of bricks, insulation and splintered lumber.

In the center of town, heavy equipment operators rumbled through the back-and-forth task of clearing piles of rubble that covered entire blocks. At what was once a steam-cleaning business, volunteers sifted through piles of debris to salvage what they could. Several steam cleaners stood at the edge of the pile.

The damage and devastation in Mayfield is so severe that it could take years before the community returns to normal, said Chris Chiles, disaster response coordinator for the Danville, Virginia-based God’s Pit Crew, which has been aiding storm-ravaged communities for more than two decades.

“There’s a ton of work that needs to be done,” Chiles said. “I’ve been doing this for 14 years all over the country, and it’s hard to get much worse than this.

“It’ll take a long time. Years, unfortunately.”

When a town that has lived through such a catastrophic event does finally get rebuilt and back on its feet, Chiles said, it’s often stronger and more close-knit than before.

“The loss of life is horrific, but sometimes neighbors don’t know each other and things like this bring people together,” he said.

Still, not everyone is prepared to rebuild.

Chris Eigenrauch, 49, whose home was among those badly battered by the storm, said the prospect of rebuilding an entire community is simply too daunting. He said he’s considering moving to neighboring Illinois, where several of his relatives live.

“It’s going to take months, if not years,” he said. “I just plan on leaving. For the ones who are staying, I hope God helps them rebuild.”

Kelso, who works 20 hours a week as a short-order cook, isn’t sure how long it will take to get his own home back to normal, let alone the devastated community. But his confidence is unwavering.

“This is a tough community,” he said. “We’ll come together.”

___

Associated Press reporter Piper Hudspeth Blackburn contributed to this report from Louisville, Kentucky.

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

AP

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalatio...
Associated Press

Top EU official vows to ‘stress test’ pipelines after leaks

BRUSSELS (AP) — The head of the European Union’s executive arm vowed Wednesday to introduce checks on key EU infrastructure, including energy, after the suspected sabotage of natural-gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the damage last week to the Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Germany has […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Iran says detained Iranian-American, 85, heading to Oman

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An 85-year-old Iranian-American held by Iran left the country Wednesday for Oman, state media reported. The state-run IRNA news agency published video of Baquer Namazi boarding a Royal Oman air force jet, apparently in Tehran. It said Namazi left the country Wednesday. Tehran said late Tuesday that Oman had […]
1 day ago
FILE - An Afghan refugee boy carries a bag of mangoes on his shoulder in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday,...
Associated Press

Amnesty: Creditors should provide debt relief to Sri Lanka

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — International creditors should provide debt relief to Sri Lanka to alleviate suffering as its people endure hunger, worsening poverty and shortages of basic supplies, Amnesty International said in a statement Wednesday. For months, Sri Lanka has been in the grip of a dire economic crisis and the country has defaulted […]
1 day ago
FILE - The logo of the Organization of the Petroleoum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is seen outside of...
Associated Press

OPEC+ weighs large oil cutback to boost sagging prices

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The OPEC+ alliance of oil-exporting countries on Wednesday will debate a potentially large cut in the amount of crude it ships to the global economy — a move that could help Russia weather a looming European ban on oil imports and raise gasoline prices for U.S. drivers just ahead of national […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Pakistan’s army chief meets with US defense secretary

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s powerful military chief met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other security and government officials, the military said. Qamar Javed Bajwa’s trip to the United States comes weeks before he’s expected to retire after an extended six-year tenure. Although Pakistan has been ruled by the elected civilian […]
1 day ago
A malnourished child sits at a clinic in Dollow, Somalia, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. Within week...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: A look at famine and its toll as Somalia at risk

DOLLOW, Somalia (AP) — Within weeks, a famine could be declared in Somalia, affecting more than 850,000 people in two of the country’s worst drought-affected areas plus thousands of people in displacement camps. Such a declaration by the United Nations and partners is rare and a sign of the dire consequences from the worst drought […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Rebuilding tornado-ravaged Kentucky town could take years