Muhlenberg County

Curtis McGehee

The December tornadoes took lives and destroyed property throughout much of western and southern Kentucky. Communities in the region are beginning to pick up the pieces and form long-term plans to rebuild.

 

Curtis McGehee is the judge-executive of Muhlenberg County in western Kentucky, which includes the hard-hit town of Bremen. The county suffered at least a dozen deaths from the tornado and saw 91 homes destroyed, with 46 homes taking heavy damage. McGehee said officials are still working to assess the financial scope of the destruction.

 

“We’re not sure what the extent of the damage is concerning dollars. But my emergency management director did tell me he thinks it’ll be upwards of $100 million,” McGehee said.

 

McGehee said cleanup efforts began hours after the tornado struck and will continue until the community is rebuilt.

Ryan Van Velzer

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.

12 dead in Muhlenberg County after weekend storms

Dec 12, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Twelve people are dead in Muhlenberg County, including a child as young as 5 months old, first responders say.

They’re among the at least 80 people across the state who have died from the tornado system that ripped through overnight Friday, said Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman Sunday, during a visit to the county. 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. 

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.

Rhonda J. Miller

Kentucky towns that depend on tourism revenue from small museums and festivals are being hit again by the recent surge of COVID-19.

As a result, one Muhlenberg County town just cancelled tourism events for the rest of the year. 

The Muhlenberg Music Museum features memorabilia of rock & roll pioneers, the Everly Brothers, Phil who died in 2014, and Don who died Saturday.

That museum and the adjacent Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum are still open with sanitizing, masking, and social distancing. 

But Central City Tourism Commission Executive Director Freddie Mayes said the annual Cruise-In car and music show scheduled for Sept. 3 and 4 that draws thousands of people has been canceled.


Muhlenberg County Health Department

The highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is forcing communities across Kentucky, and the U.S., to step up safety precautions once again.

Muhlenburg County is offering COVID-19 testing and vaccination clinics this week and throughout the month. 

The brief sense of relief that crossed Kentucky with easy access to COVID-19 vaccinations and the dropping of mask requirements is over.

Tension and worry are back, as the Delta variant of the virus is causing a spike in cases, especially among the unvaccinated.


Flickr/Creative Commons/OpenFile Vancour

The Muhlenberg County Health Department is providing free Naloxone kits and training for those wanting to learn how to help people who have overdosed on opioids.

Carolyn Bullock works at the health department, and says the nasal kits are designed to be an easy and quick way for family, friends, and first responders to provide life-saving help to someone who overdosed.

“It attaches to the same part of the brain as the opioid, so it blocks their effect for about 30 to 90 minutes, and gives you time to get them emergency help, and it reverses the symptoms that would otherwise lead to death.”

Those wanting to learn how to administer Naloxone can attend one of two virtual information sessions being offered by the health department on Thursday.

Bullock says those wanting the training and naloxone kits can attend the virtual sessions without giving their name. Those who complete one of the training sessions will have a free naloxone kit mailed to them.

Stacey Oakley/Hope 2 All

The year 2020 has dropped two major challenges on the residents of Muhlenberg County.

First, a major plant shut down, followed by COVID-19. That one-two punch has dramatically increased food insecurity in the county.

During the pandemic, Hope 2 All food pantry has given out boxes of food to about 4,000 families a month at its Muhlenberg County site in Drakesboro.  

A year ago, about 1,000 families a month came to that location pick up  food.

Brad Payne has been director of the Hope 2 All community pantries for 10 years.


TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority shut down the last operating unit at its coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky over the weekend.

The TVA board of directors voted last year to retire the unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County.

For more than 50 years, the Paradise Fossil Plant has kept the lights on for nearly ten million customers across seven southeastern states, including Kentucky and Tennessee. 

Muhlenbergcounty911.org

Muhlenberg County has a new 911 website that allows residents to anonymously report concerns that are not life-threatening. 

The new website that went live in December can be used instead of a phone call for issues such as registering an after-hours contact for a business.  

Muhlenberg County 911 Supervisor David Knight said another new convenience is an online registry for cattle and livestock. Knight said in his rural community, stray cattle are pretty common.

“We do our best to keep the livestock out of the road until we can find an owner," he said. "Most of the time it is given to us. We’re who people call for that.” 


Union Funeral Home

A memorial service is being held Aug. 7 for the worker who fell into a mine shaft in Muhlenberg County on July 31.

Sixty-two-year-old Richard Knapp was presumed dead after an explosion that occurred while he was working to close off the shaft at the Paradise mine near Central City.

The memorial service will be at Union Funeral Home in Knapp’s hometown of West Frankfort, Illinois.

Knapp is survived by his wife, a son, a daughter, three grandchildren and several other relatives.

Recovery efforts where obstructed for several days by high levels of methane in the mine shaft.

Those levels dissipated enough after a few days to allow cameras to be lowered into the 380-foot shaft with water at the bottom, but officials said there was no sight of the fallen worker.


Rhonda Miller

A Kentucky program to train shelter dogs so they have a chance to be adopted has reached a milestone.  Inmates at a Muhlenberg County prison have trained 1,000 canines in a project called 'Death Row Dogs.'

In a bright sunny room at Green River Correctional Complex, 12 dogs are sitting beside their trainers. It’s week 11 of a 12-week program called 'Death Row Dogs.'

Allen Hearld says the lab mix named Snookie is the sixth dog he’s trained.  


Lu-Ray Park & Amphitheater

A city in Muhlenberg County that has a population of about 5,800 has a new amphitheater that can accommodate an audience of 5,000.

Central City built its Lu-Ray Park and Amphitheater with a standing invitation to folks from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana to bring blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy concerts, movies and picnics.

The park’s Executive Director Melissa Recke said the facility will host shows designed to attract people across a wide region.

Muhlenberg County Miners Join Thousands at UMWA Rally

Jun 15, 2016
Becca Schimmel

White signs advocating for the protection of pension and healthcare benefits were waived at a United Mine Workers of America rally in Lexington Tuesday. An estimated 4,000 miners, retirees, and family members filled the city’s convention center. They gathered to demand that Congress pass legislation protecting pensions and health care benefits for miners and their families.

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts said miners have earned what they’ve been promised.

“We have stood up for America and it’s time America stood up for us! America owes us! And we will collect on that debt!” Roberts told the crowd.

Miners could lose their retirement benefits this fall if Congress doesn’t act. Roberts says union members will march on Washington D.C. and risk being arrested if that’s what it takes. He told miners to go home and find at least five others that would be willing to rally at the nation’s capital.

Spouse Becky Gardner says she wants what the miners were promised.

Lisa Autry

The two surviving members of a 2014 Muhlenberg County house fire are filing a lawsuit against a construction company.

The fire killed LaRae Watson and eight of her children after an electric heater ignited combustible materials inside the home. Chad Watson and his daughter, Kylie, are suing Owensboro-based Jagoe Homes, claiming the company hasn’t fulfilled its promise to build the Watsons a new home at no cost.

The lawsuit was first reported by WFIE-14 TV in Evansville. The suit claims the Watsons suffered “severe emotional harm and distress” when they didn’t receive the home they say they were promised.

Owensboro attorney Travis Holtrey is representing Jagoe Homes, and says a response to the lawsuit will be filed soon.

“We have full confidence that after that answer is filed, and after the matter is presented in the proper format, it will be determined that Jagoe Homes did not violate any law," he told WKU Public Radio Wednesday.

Holtrey wouldn't comment on whether or not Jagoe had made a promise regarding the building of a new home for the Watsons.

ACLU of Kentucky

The Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit for a case in Muhlenberg County over song lyrics in a Facebook post.

In August, James Evans of Central City posted lyrics on his Facebook page from a song called “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer)” by the band Exodus. The 2010 song is about the Virginia Tech shooting.

Evans was arrested that month on a criminal charge of first-degree terroristic threatening, a felony. The charge was eventually dismissed.

The ACLU of Kentucky filed a federal lawsuit this week claiming Muhlenberg County Police Officer Michael Drake falsely arrested Evans for posting those lyrics. Evans’ attorneys—Brenda Popplewell and William Sharp—claim that arrest was illegal and violated their clients’ First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed at a U.S. District Court in the Western District of Kentucky and names Muhlenberg County and Officer Drake as defendants.

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