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Large damage in a small community: how Muhlenburg County is coping

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Ryan Van Velzer
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Muhlenberg County is just one of many grappling with the aftermath of devastating storms.

“As of this morning the death toll here is 12. 12 is an enormous amount of people for a small community like this,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, during a Sunday morning visit to Bremen.

They’re among the dozens of people across the state who have died from the tornado system that ripped through overnight Friday. That toll is expected to rise in the coming days as the complete scale of destruction comes into view. 

Coleman came through Muhlenberg County Sunday to assure residents that all the communities who’ve been affected by the storm will receive the help they need to rebuild. 

“Regardless of where you are from or how populated your town is or isn’t, the governor is committed to making sure we are getting the resources to the people who need them,” she said.

The tornado tore its way through Bremen and Moorman in Muhlenberg County, leaving behind a trail of devastation never before seen by those who live there.

“It’s a catastrophic event,” said Muhlenberg County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Alex Piper. “I’ve been a resident of Muhlenberg County my entire life, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Emergency crews began search and rescue operations shortly after the worst of the storm subsided Friday night. By Sunday morning, Piper said those operations have concluded.

The ages of the 12 dead range from 5 months old to a person in their 70s. Those who lost their homes have stayed with relatives or in county shelters, Piper said. 

Danny Miller is a 74-year-old farmer of Lost Valley Farms. He says the only reason he and his wife are still alive was that they were listening to the television reports and were able to shelter in their basement.

“All I can say is we had a real bad tornado come over and it’s tore up everything,” he said.

The roof of his grain silo was ripped off in the storm, a possible $100,000 loss, and several cows died as well. But those losses pale in comparison to his family.

“Lost a brother and his wife in this. They lived in a doublewide and they didn’t make it,” he said.

First responders were still working to clear roads Sunday morning. Piper said utility crews are trying to bring back power as soon as possible amid freezing overnight temperatures.

A group of teenagers were among those who showed up outside the local fire station in Bremen to help Sunday morning. They drove ATVs and wore work gloves, ready to help clear debris and find belongings. 

Macy Fields, 16, said it’s been traumatizing to see the community she’s lived in her whole life so completely decimated. Fields said her home survived, but her friend lost his. 

“It’s heartbreaking,” she said.

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