Tornado Response in East Bernstadt

Mar 8, 2012

Relief, Recovery, Reflection, and Rebuilding all follow a natural disaster like the one that’s struck much of the Commonwealth.  All four elements were found Wednesday in the south central Kentucky community of East Bernstadt.  The east Bernstadt fire station now serves as the emergency response command post.   It’s really a simple process.  People who want to help, come in, sign a volunteer sheet and are dispatched to a work site.  Among them is Marsha Hodge, who lives in nearby London, but goes to church is in East Bernstadt.  ‘I think it’s doing good…I think a lot of people are chipping in and helping..a lot of the churches…I think we’re doing good as a community,” said Hodge.

Buses then take volunteers from the fire station to work sites.  As she steps off her bus, driver May Carpenter admits she’s ‘sort of sad.’  Carpenter lost her cousin and her cousin’s husband.  The elderly couple died when a tornado hit their mobile home.  A long funeral procession for Wilbur and Virginia Pitman passed right by the fire station early that afternoon.  Carpenter’s sister is also in trouble…her home was ‘all messed up.’  Still, the bus driver carries on…taking group after group out Highway-25.

“Well they needed volunteers so, this is what I do best, so that’s what I was doing,” said Carpenter.

Carpenter has driven a school bus for years, first in Cincinnati and then in Laurel county.

Volunteers pulled tree limbs to the street near Calvary Baptist Temple.  The church’s roof was damaged and front pillars blown away.  Volunteer Terry McNamara found a piece of folded paper at a nearby pond.

“It’s a scripture from the Bible from a child who’s wrote it…don’t know where it came from…no name on it…probably blew, just guessing 20 25 miles,” added McNamara.

Down the road from the church, a back hoe crunched scrap wood and loads it into a dump truck.  Just behind the dozer, Kerri Lunsford stood by her fence as volunteers assessed her damaged roof.  She has two children who are four and five years old.  She’s thankful a friend convinced her not to go home during Friday’s storm.

“I was probably at the police post about six miles friend called as said don’t go home with them babies and come over here and why…and she’s like…they’re giving some bad weather..tornadoes and stuff and I’m like I’m so tired I just want to go home and she no just bring them over here…and I’m so glad I went,” said Lunsford.

Lunsford says her next door neighbors had just moved out permanently before the house was destroyed.  And the vista from her front door step has changed dramatically.

“This is a devastating site to look at from your front porch, those were my neighbors…you could never see the rock…you could never see the interstate and now you can see the trucks coming down the interstate…you can see them from the back could never see that before,” added Lunsford.

Back at the command center, Emergency Management official Gerald Kerler says their priority is debris removal.  He says an incineration site has been set up for waste wood and metal will be recycled.  One of the biggest factors for a successful clean up is beyond human control.

“Good weather for one thing, because if we get bad weather moving in as far as debris removal..we’ve got to stop because we can’t get the stuff to the burner plant because of the conditions out there,” explained Kerler.

The weather forecast, for now, calls for dry sunny conditions on Friday and Saturday.