About 75 percent of the city of Dawson Springs in western Kentucky was destroyed by the storm, Mayor Chris Smiley said. About a third of the city’s 2,500 residents live below the poverty line and many are uninsured.
Nick Bailey, the county’s director of emergency management, said homes still standing may not be without power for a month.
“Right now, our spirits are crushed, but we’ll be back,” said Hopkins County Coroner Dennis Mayfield, who reported 13 deaths Sunday in Dawson Springs.
According to Gov. Andy Beshear, at least 88 people were killed in a total of violent storms that hit parts of the Midwest and South from Friday afternoon into Saturday, including at least 74 in Kentucky. In all, eight states recorded at least 50 tornadoes.
“When this storm hit, it didn’t just take out a roof, which we’ve seen in the past,” Beshear said. “The whole house exploded. The people, the animals, the rest… just left.”
The damage was not only to the buildings. Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Doucet told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that several major transmission towers were destroyed and it will take weeks to months to replace them.
The destruction was indiscriminate. Long-term effects are difficult to measure.
Kentucky Sen. “For some people, I don’t know if they’ll ever fully recover from it, certainly not emotionally or psychologically,” Whitney Westerfield said. “Houses and buildings can be rebuilt over time, but it’s something that stays with the community and the family for a long time,” he told CNN on Monday.
“we were blown away”
“I’m not okay,” said Briana Gleason, a Dawson Springs mother who took her two young children in after her home was destroyed by the thunderous winds. “Like, one minute I’m sitting here and smiling and the next minute I’m swinging,” Gleason told CNN.
Gleason suffered a broken arm, head injuries, and facial injuries. His house was destroyed. But she is alive, and her children were miraculously unharmed.
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe my kids and I’m fine,” Gleason told CNN’s Ed Lavender, standing amid the concrete and wood debris of her completely destroyed neighborhood. “I can’t believe my kids don’t have broken bones. It’s crazy.”
Gleason said she and her children were “extremely lucky to be alive because we were blown away. And our neighbors died right next to us.”
The neighbors were sisters Marsha Hall, 72, and Carol Grisham, 80. They took shelter in a corridor during the storm, but were found dead about 12 hours later among the rubble of several houses.
“Everybody thought the world was theirs,” Hal’s son Jason Cummins said with tears in his eyes. “They were the sweetest and nicest people who always thought of everyone before themselves.”
“My kids loved them,” Gleason said of the sisters. “We…