By RACHEL C DOVE
INEZ, Ky. - Martin County Director of Emergency Management, Lee Gauze, has barely slept during the past three days.
He and his employees have been working around the clock to assess the tornado damage that devastated numerous local residents in an attempt to begin the tedious, nerve wracking task of helping restore some sense of normalcy in their lives.
A spokesperson with the Emergency Management office released a count, to date, that reported 120 homes in the county affected by the EF-2 tornado that tore through various communities on Friday evening.
Out of those 120 structures, 24 homes were completely destroyed.
The spokesperson said the breakdown of the communities that suffered loss and damage to homes was as follows:
Lovely – 19 damaged, 8 destroyed; Middle Fork (New Rt. 3) - 26 damaged, 10 destroyed; Beauty – 28 damaged, 4 destroyed; Coldwater – 19 damaged, 1 destroyed; Tomahawk – 17 damaged, 1 destroyed; Turkey – 6 damaged; Rt. 2032 (Little Rockcastle) – 3 damaged; and in Warfield, 2 homes received damage.
“We had a curfew in affect for Saturday evening in order to deter looters and people just wanting to look and take pictures from being in the communities that were most affected,” said the secretary of the Martin County Sheriff’s Department. “We have lifted the curfew but our deputies are still out in full force, patrolling the neighborhoods to hopefully prevent thefts from taking place.
“If anyone is arrested for trespassing on these properties or removing items without the owners consent, we can guarantee that they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. These families have already been devastated by the tornado, they certainly don’t deserve to lose what little bit they’ve managed to salvage.”
Electric service has been restored to most of the county, but the Emergency Management office stated there were still a few areas without power, and water lines are being repaired as quickly as possible. The Appalachian Wireless cell tower that services the county was destroyed, and as a result, cell service is practically non-existent.
Shelters in place have been established inside the Martin County Senior Citizens Center in Inez and the Warfield Community Center in Hode. The Trinity Freewill Baptist Church in Lovely (near the Kermit Bridge) is also providing temporary lodging for those in need, as well as meals and drinks.
Community and county leaders are asking for donations of non-perishable food items, cleaning supplies, clothing, blankets and other linens, personal hygiene items, diapers and formula, and other items that are used on a daily basis. Designated drop off locations include the Trinity Freewill Baptist Church in Lovely, the Martin County Courthouse and the Sheldon Clark High School, both in Inez.
“These families are in dire need of these items, and we are also accepting volunteer labor from anyone who has the time and the know how to complete such tasks as boarding windows and doors up, repairing roofs, or hauling debris away from the properties,” commented the Emergency Management Director. “You can call us here at the office at 606-298-2088 and we can connect you with the right people.”
The nearby counties of Johnson, Magoffin, Morgan, Lawrence and Floyd suffered moderate to severe damage, with the communities of Salyersville and West Liberty being especially hard hit. At least 38 people are reported to have died within the state.
Shawn Shepherd, 16, of Floyd County and Gregory Perry, 20, of Middle Fork were both killed when the double-wide trailer they were in was ripped from its foundation. Another individual in the home suffered injuries but according to county officials, is expected to recover. Two deaths were also reported in the Blaine community in Lawrence County, near Louisa.
Searches continue in the town of West Liberty for those still missing. To date, 19 are reported dead in Kentucky, 14 in Indiana, three in Ohio and one each in Alabama and Georgia.
The Georgia fatality was an 85-year-old woman who died after she was washed into a creek after trying to take shelter in a drain pipe.
A toddler that was found in a field in Indiana died later in the hospital of injuries she sustained. Her parents and two siblings were said to have been killed when the tornado struck their home.
American Electric Power (Kentucky Power) stated they had over 14,000 residents without electricity, and although they are working diligently to get all areas restored, the communities that suffered the most damage will take longer for the repairs to be completed.
Betty Lowe, a woman whose home on Maple Drive in the Lovely community summed up her feelings when asked how she was managing to deal with her loss.
“I’ve lived in my house for over 40 years. I’ve spent many years there with my late husband; I’ve raised my children, and enjoyed my grandchildren and great-grandchildren under that roof. I’ve accumulated personal possessions, some of which meant a great deal to me, but none of those things and I mean none, would ever come close to what it would have done to me if I would have lost a family member when the tornado hit,” said Lowe.
“Possessions come and possessions go, but family is irreplaceable. A lot of people are mourning the loss of loved ones right now. I’m one of the blessed who was spared that pain.”