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Bowling Green convention bureau links Red Cross and Warren County to help lodge tornado victims

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Rhonda J. Miller
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The deadly tornadoes that ripped across Kentucky and damaged or destroyed 900 homes in the Bowling Green area left many families homeless.  

The original estimate of 500 impacted homes was increased after crews were able to be on the ground and survey the damage. 

The disaster prompted the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to serve an unusual function – to act as a liaison to help local officials get displaced families into hotels.

The visitors bureau is the focal point for booking large groups in hotels, usually for conventions or athletic events. 

The tornado that struck in the early morning hours on Saturday, Dec. 11 changed the usual business of the convention bureau.

General Manager Sherry Murphy said the listing of available hotel rooms is being used to help house families displaced by the tornado.

“We began Monday morning," said Murphy.  That was less than 48 hours after the tornado struck. "The Red Cross called requesting that information. And Warren County also called requesting it, to be able to coordinate with Red Cross.”

She said by Monday, Dec. 13 nine hotels in Bowling Green and Warren County were already full. Some of those rooms were occupied by people looking for a place to stay other than a shelter. And some of the available rooms in the area are also being occupied by those who are helping the recovery efforts. 

“We’ve had lots of utility crews,” said Murphy. “Folks helping out, which is wonderful and we can’t thank them enough, but they also have to have a place to stay when they’re here to help.”

Murphy said the sudden demand for hotel rooms comes during a national staffing shortage for hotels, restaurants and other industries.

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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