Thursday, May 25, 2000

Western Ky. town recovering from tornado

Officials weigh damage, offer aid

By Mike Chambers
The Associated Press

        LEITCHFIELD, Ky. — Donna Odom and her family stood amid debris in their front yard, as the sun shone through exposed rafters and onto the backs of state officials walking through her living room touring tornado damage Wednesday.

        Ms. Odom had huddled inside the home Tuesday, praying as the tornado ripped her home's roof away. On Wednesday, she wondered whether her homeowners insurance would cover all the damage.

        “What I bought the home for 10 years ago, you can't build a home for that now,” said Ms. Odom, who had not yet spoken with an insurance adjuster.

        The line of storms that moved through western Kentucky damaged homes in 12 counties, but Leitchfield was hardest hit, officials with the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management said.

        The tornado that struck about 2 p.m. caused more than a dozen injuries, destroyed 16 homes in Leitchfield and severely damaged another 37 homes, said Charlie Frazee with the emergency management agency. Dozens of other homes sustained minor damage, he said Wednesday.

        Forty-one National Guard troops were to be posted overnight in the town to prevent looting.

        Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, who toured the damage in Leitchfield as part of an initial assessment for state and federal relief, said officials with eight state agencies were mobilized to offer assistance to residents and businesses.

        Mr. Henry said many homeowners he talked to were covered by insurance. But he expressed concern for the 2,000 employees who were affected by the tornado that damaged eight businesses at the Leitchfield Industrial Park.

        “My number one concern is making sure that a year from now every one of those businesses are still here,” Mr. Henry said.

        The industrial park employs 3,500 people. Grayson County Judge-Executive Gary Logsdon said the damage impacted about one-third of the town's workforce.

        “Two thousand jobs plays a big part in a small community,” Mr. Logsdon said. “We rely on our industries.”

        State officials with the depart<< ments of unemployment and insurance, the Cabinet for Local Government and the Natural Resources Cabinet were in Grayson County on Wednesday to offer assistance to residents and local government officials.

        State officials also were working to contain a spill after a 1,000-gallon tank holding diesel fuel was thrown into a nearby creek, Mr. Henry said.

        The American Red Cross converted the Grayson County Middle School into a shelter for residents and also was offering assistance to those in need of lodging or food and clothing.

        George Betz, a Red Cross spokesman, said only eight people sought shelter the night of the storm and all later left to stay with family.

        << Mr. Betz said the Red Cross is also providing counseling for people traumatized by the storms.

        “When people go through something like that it kind of rattles you up emotionally,” Mr. Betz said.

        Bobby and Julie Coy got it from both from the tornado and torrential rains that followed. Their home lost its roof to the tornado, and rains caused the ceiling inside to cave in. Fortunately they were able to move many of their belongings into another room before the living room ceiling fell in.

        They weren't home when the tornado struck, and the site was barely recognizable when they returned.

        “At first we didn't even think it was ours,” Julie Coy said.


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