One year ago, I moved back to my home state of Kentucky to be closer to family. While my relatives and I were not directly hit by the overnight storms on December 10, my heart weighs heavy as people across the Commonwealth grieve the loss of loved ones and homes and anxiously await news of those who are still missing.
I am grateful to see folks across Kentucky and the country stepping up to support the recovery efforts that have only just started and will continue for a long time to come.
It is my privilege to use my blog as a platform to uplift the voices of Kentuckians, and direct readers to locally led mutual aid efforts. Please see the links below and consider sharing with your family, friends, and social media networks.
Record-breaking, heart-breaking, and historic
I’ve never been in the path of a tornado, but spent many nights huddled in my basement when the warning sirens went off in my hometown of Florence, KY. So this past Friday evening, as weather alerts interrupted the local radio station, I knew the drill: I gathered my dogs and slept in the basement.
Fortunately, the tornadoes didn’t reach us in Louisville or my relatives across the state, but I woke up to the heart-wrenching news of destruction and death across Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee. One of the tornadoes alone carved a historic, deadly, and devastating path from Arkansas through Kentucky, with early estimates putting the tornado path at over 220 miles long.
Coming together across the Commonwealth and country
It is heartwarming to see the amount of support and concern coming into Kentucky and the on-the-ground efforts to keep residents and responders safe, fed, hydrated, housed, and warm. If you are financially able and willing to help, here are a few ways to support:
Mutual aid, donations, and supplies needed
- Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is updating a list of resources here.
- Drag Queen Storytime-Kentucky is raising funds, along with other LGBTQIA+ organizations to support educational expenses for youth ages 5-24 recovering from the storms.
- The Commonwealth Alliance Donor Table, Kentucky Civic Engagement Table, Black Leadership Action Coalition of Kentucky, and Hood to the Holler are raising funds to support disaster relief efforts in Western Kentucky and prioritizing Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Refugee, Immigrant, and poor and working class Kentuckians.
- Local radio station WFPL has a list here.
Mental health resources
- Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990 If you’re feeling emotional distress related to a disaster, call or text to talk with a trained counselor. You can get support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- Dr. Monica Unseld, Founder of Until Justice Data Partners, shared this resource in their recent newsletter: Managing Traumatic Grief and Coping After National Crisis.
For Kentuckians seeking assistance
- Find Disaster Assistance.
Was this “normal?”
My colleague Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel provides a thoughtful overview of the tornadoes and their connection to our changing climate in her blog post here.
The immediate concerns are of course the health and safety of people. Many are understandably raising questions about whether it is “normal” to have tornadoes in December and, especially, multiple tornadoes of such severity and a record-breaking one that tracked over 200 miles in Kentucky alone.
But whatever the evolving science says on the matter, there is nothing “normal” or acceptable about the loss of life.
What comes next?
This past summer I had the joy of spending a weekend at Pennyrile State Park in Dawson Springs, KY. Dawson Springs is also the hometown of Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s father and is where his relatives still live. Half of that scenic town was destroyed by Friday night’s tornado.
In addition to leading the state response to the storm, and successfully petitioning for a federal disaster declaration from President Biden, Governor Beshear has shared his personal struggles:
“I’m not doing so well today and I’m not sure how many of us are,” Beshear said.
Disasters strike swiftly. They take away our sense of security and reveal how dangerous the world can be in a matter of minutes. The timing is especially challenging for people and families preparing for the holidays while suffering tremendous losses. Hardship calls on us to be compassionate and to muster up the internal strength to recover.
As Governor Beshear said, “We’re gonna keep putting one foot in front of the other, and we are going to push through this.”
The beauty of Kentucky is not only in our natural parks, forests, and waterways, it is also the beauty of our people and, really, people everywhere who come together in times of crisis and need.