Crews still clearing tornado debris in McCracken County after early March storm
Volunteers and residents are still clearing debris in far western Kentucky, where an EF-2 tornado impacted a small McCracken County community as a deadly band of storms left hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians without power earlier this month.
The early March storm damaged more than 60 structures and destroyed four homes in the small community of Freemont, outside of Paducah.
In the days since the tornado, area residents and volunteers – which includes groups from organizations like the Bread of Life Humanitarian Effort group and student groups from Trinity Christian College and Baylor University – have come together to pick up the pieces. McCracken County Emergency Management director Rob Estes says the local response and recovery efforts have been “fantastic.”
“This disaster here … it's absolutely brought out the best in everybody. We've had nothing but just wonderful people here. This is a wonderful, tight knit community and you can tell that it's neighbor helping neighbor,” Estes said. “It's just been a wonderful thing to see, to experience, for such a disaster in this area.”
Jerome Mansfield is a deputy director with McCracken County Emergency Management. He’s been leading recovery efforts out of the Freemont fire station.
“It's pretty devastating for a small community to have a high percentage of their houses affected,” Mansfield said. “But, fortunately, there were no injuries, which is really remarkable with a EF-2 tornado at 125 mph going down the middle of the neighborhood.”
Mansfield estimates as much as 60% of the debris from the storm has been cleared in McCracken County. He said debris removal for residents has been the priority, with many area homeowners awaiting decisions from insurance adjusters.
Estes estimates more than 3,000 cubic yards of debris – enough to fill around 300 truck loads – has been cleared since the storms.
When it comes to potential federal disaster aid, Estes said the community’s status is still up in the air.
“It's going to become a paperwork thing to get public assistance and to get individual assistance and start working on that end of it. Sometimes we have to wait for the president for the presidential [disaster] declaration at this point,” he said. “So that's what we have to wait on.”
Recovery operations out of the Freemont fire station ceased Wednesday. Estes said, moving forward, officials will coordinate efforts from the McCracken County Emergency Management offices in Paducah.
“The community’s gradually getting back to normal. School buses are running, the mail’s running, the local Dollar General Store’s open,” Mansfield said. “So we'll be able to keep a close eye just a few miles away at the command post in our emergency operations center and answer any questions residents have.”