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Pembroke residents deal with tornado damage, school closure

Trees branches cover much of Pembroke.
Dustin Wilcox
Trees branches cover much of Pembroke.

Within Christian County, the small community of Pembroke was hit particularly hard by a tornado outbreak that struck western Kentucky on Friday night.

City workers are currently contending with fallen trees and other debris spread throughout the South Main Street area, where missing shingles and blown-out windows on houses are a common sight.

On top of that, Pembroke Elementary School was the only school in Christian County to suffer structural damage during the storm. Pembroke students have been sent home on winter break a week early so the district can make repairs before they return in January.

Lacy Hopewell, 62, a Pembroke resident who works at the Marathon gas station on Nashville Street, said trees and powerlines fell over her house, her sister’s double-wide trailer is totaled and her grandkids aren’t able to attend school. But her family is otherwise safe.

Lacy Hopewell, 61 of Pembroke, experienced the tornado firsthand.

“It affected the whole town. When it affected one, it affected everybody. It was devastating. If you could just have been through something like this, I never experienced it in my life,” Hopewell said. “I just thank God. He spared us one more time.”

Hopewell said the storm has brought Pembroke and the surrounding communities together to support each other, sharing resources like water, coffee and food as they rebuild.

“We’ve been trying to stay close together because we’ve got to get through this together,” Hopewell said. “We thank God for everybody that’s come and is helping us and other towns like Mayfield, Bowling Green.”

Bettie Anderson, 41, a resident of a surrounding town who attends church and shops in Pembroke, similarly appreciated the “outpouring of love and support” from the community, saying they will ultimately be able to pull through the present tribulations.

City workers have blocked off much of Pembroke to clear debris.
City workers have blocked off much of Pembroke to clear debris.

“We will bounce back. God truly watched over a lot of people,” Anderson said. “A lot of areas got hit worse than we did. We were blessed with no lives lost in this area.”

As for students, Christian County Superintendent Chris Bentzel said the district first aims to fulfill their basic needs by providing free supplies and food at schools. He noted the COVID-19 pandemic has prepared the district to shift gears amid an ongoing school year.

“We have a great support process to recover,” Bentzel said. “In fact, we’re still recovering over the last two years, so five days tacked onto that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It’s not the time to do NTI [non-traditional instruction] and virtual and try to sustain that learning.”

All other Christian County schools were closed today to allow time for families to recover from the storm.

Dustin Wilcox is a television production student at Murray State University. He graduated from Hopkinsville High School in 2019.
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