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Beshear: Tornado clean-up, rebuild in Mayfield could take two years

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WxChasing/Brandon Clement
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Gov. Andy Beshear says Mayfield’s clean-up and rebuilding process in the aftermath of December’s deadly tornado could take as long as two years. Beshear said this during a Monday update detailing tornado clean-up across the state, as communities continue to deal with the aftermath of last month’s storms.

The Graves County community was heavily impacted by the tornado outbreak and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) officials say that roughly 40% of the estimated 4.6 million cubic yards of debris across the western Kentucky region – more than enough to fill the Colosseum in Rome – are in the city.

“So it’s gonna take longer for Mayfield to look less and less like a massive tornado has gone through it and understand that that is where it is going to take us the longest to ultimately remove and rebuild, but we’re committed to every single day of what will likely be the next two years to get that job done,” the governor said. “It’s also the only place that’s going to require demolition on a significant scale.”

Around 25% of that total debris, or 1.1 million cubic yards, has been removed so far across the 16 impacted counties, according to USACE estimates.

Beshear underlined the sheer scale of destruction.

“Normally a tornado, even one that brings in FEMA, will touch down, maybe destroy several neighborhoods, but rarely, if ever, does it destroy entire cities, entire downtowns,” he said. “This devastation and an amount of debris like never before.”

USACE officials have told Beshear that it will take until April for all of the debris to be removed from Mayfield. Other parts of the storm-impacted areas have seen significant debris removal so far. About half of the estimated 275,000 cubic yards of debris in Caldwell County have been dealt with. Fulton and Hickman counties have also made it about halfway through their debris removal. In Christian County, about 40% of the 30,000 estimated cubic yards of debris have been cleared.

Beshear also detailed some new uses of Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund money. The state will be using it to add 20% on top of what FEMA awards for individual assistance for uninsured homeowners and renters severely impacted by the storms. This will total about $1.4 million by Beshear’s estimate and go out to over 1,400 families and individuals. More are expected to qualify, and the program will be expanded to insured homeowners and renters in the coming weeks.

“We think that we’re going to have more than enough in that fund. We’re just trying to take the steps at the appropriate time to ensure that those that need the help the most receive it,” the governor said. “It’s important to note that this fund is for the medium and the long term, when so many others are set up for the immediate aftermath of the event.”

Beshear also said 352 displaced Kentuckians and 58 first responders are still housed in Kentucky state parks. The state parks are in need of volunteers to aid in working with these unhoused people. Interested parties can email andy.kasitz@ky.gov.

The governor announced that the Commonwealth Sheltering Program finalized the purchase of 200 new travel trailers for impacted families so they can return close to their home during this recovery process. The first 10 trailers are expected to be hooked up in Mayfield and Dawson Springs this week. This will also enable impacted homeowners to benefit down the line.

“These travel trailers are not only nice and provide more space for families, but they have a resale market value and we will be able to clear them out once people can return to their home,” Beshear said.

The purchase of these trailers was funded by the Kentucky General Assembly.

Beshear noted that the families of all 77 people who died as a result of December’s storms have been paid by the state for funeral expenses. The governor wants to be sure to support these storm victims, their families and the impacted communities through this rebuild and recovery process.

“I want every family touched by these storms to know that we are with them and we’re going to continue to provide updates. Remember, it is a long process,” he said. “A lot of debris to remove, a lot of rebuilding to do. But we’re going to get there. We’ve just got to persist and be patient, which is really hard when your life has been turned upside down and in the midst of a pandemic, but, again, we’ll get there.”

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