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'It just takes time': Lessons from western Kentucky tornadoes

Mayfield, Kentucky after tornado damage
Posted at 6:24 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 09:55:02-04

(LEX 18) — Last December, tornadoes sliced through six counties in western Kentucky, leveling homes and killing dozens.

While that disaster differs in many ways from the current flooding that devastated areas of eastern Kentucky, Graves County Emergency Management Director Tracey Warner said that the destruction and feeling of loss are likely much the same.

“It just makes your heart sink,” Warner said of watching the news coming out of eastern Kentucky.

As her county continues the long process of recovering from the December tornadoes, she offered some words of hope to the people of Eastern Kentucky – help is coming.

"Things will be coming,” Warner said. “It'll be overwhelming for them, but it just takes time."

Warner also had advice for those eager to offer that help and donated items.

“Don't self-deploy,” Warner said. “You need to let them figure out what they need and be ready to go.”

While all the help was appreciated, western Kentucky was overwhelmed with people and donations almost immediately after the tornadoes tore through the area – even before Warner knew the extent of the damage or where the help was needed.

“We had thousands of people show up and it was so overwhelming we couldn't even deal with the disaster because they created a disaster in itself,” Warner said.

Graves County still has leftover donations from after the tornadoes, and there is a plan to send some of those down to Eastern Kentucky once it’s time.

“We're holding off,” Warner said. “We’re not gonna send anything right now because they're still getting flooding.”

After people in eastern Kentucky are done dealing with the immediate disaster, there will be new challenges, Warner said.

“Right now they're in their emergency response mode of, ‘let's try to save as many lives as we can,’ … and then eventually they'll get to the stage where 'how can we prevent this from ever happening again?'"