FREEMONT — The EF-2 tornado that ripped through southern McCracken County on Friday, March 3 measured nearly two football fields wide and featured winds of up to 125 miles per hour, according to official estimates.
Despite its size and the 68 houses damaged — some of them destroyed — no one reported injuries.
That, according to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, was nothing short of “a miracle.”
Beshear visited Freemont on Sunday afternoon, March 5, surveying the damage and speaking with survivors of the storm. He called it “really incredible, that everybody here and most families we’ve gotten to talk to are safe, even though they’ve got a lot of rebuilding to come.”
A large portion of Kentucky suffered severe weather on Friday, taxing public resources and utilities. Beshear said Sunday that more than 207,000 people had remained without power, and called the restoration of electricity “a multi-day effort.”
Despite the lack of death or injuries, Beshear acknowledged the stress such a tragedy could take on people, and urged residents to call the state disaster distress helpline at (800) 985-5990.
“It’s OK to not be OK. There’s a lot of trauma that comes with an EF-2 tornado,” he said. “Sometimes this trauma is more than our minds or our bodies are meant to take.”
State and local officials also spoke at a news conference Sunday.
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Col. Jeremy Slinker praised the “extraordinary response” from various agencies, and promised the state would work “in lockstep” with local officials to determine the strategy for recovery and what assistance to request from FEMA.
“I was going to say ‘and help your neighbor,’ but I don’t think I have to say that after walking around here,” Slinker said.
Beshear said public FEMA assistance would be available for clearing roads and utility work, but it hadn’t yet been determined if the disaster met the requirements for individual assistance.
Beshear said in the wake of the Dec. 10, 2021 tornado outbreak, insurance companies responded well to claims, and he expected a similar outcome to Friday’s devastation.
McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer thanked Beshear for his support, and promised residents that help was on its way, urging people not to put themselves in danger by trying to do work they were ill-equipped or trained to do.
“I would recommend to the folks that, if you’ve not ever run a chainsaw, don’t run to the store and get one and try to learn,” Clymer said.
“Don’t put yourself in harm’s way. We’ll help you to take care of that.”
Beshear praised the “closely knit community” and the efforts of not just public and utility workers, but volunteer efforts by friends and neighbors.
“From what I’ve seen, no one feels alone,” he said.
“Everybody I’ve talked to plans on building back.”
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