Kentucky tornado: army of donors and volunteers helps state get back on its feet

State has raised about $10m through more than 66,000 donations

Geoffrey Deibler, chief of police for the city of Morganfield, Kentucky, fiddles with the plastic wrapping on a toy dinosaur. After a minute or two, he liberates the stegosaurus and presents it to a young child in Dawson Springs.

“Hopefully, we can just help these kids forget about all this mess they've got around them for a couple minutes,” Mr Diebler said.

The small town of fewer than 2,500 people was devastated by a powerful tornado that swept through the state at the weekend.

At least 13 people were killed and the damage to the town’s infrastructure was catastrophic, with officials estimating that as much as 75 per cent of the city has been reduced to rubble.

Mr Diebler and his officers have travelled the 75 kilometres from Morganfield to Dawson Springs every day since the twister struck to help the community. In a few short days, they raised $10,000, and on Tuesday, they brought four lorries full of toys for local children.

They even roped in Santa Claus to help distribute some cheer to Dawson City’s youths.

Tornadoes ripped across several US  states late Friday, killing more than 70 people in Kentucky, at least two at a nursing home in Arkansas and an undetermined number at an Amazon. com warehouse that was partially flattened in Illinois. Bloomberg

Two blocks away in the historic centre of town, Jeff Carrell opens a six-metre-long trailer filled with supplies such as nappies, torches and water.

“My heart goes out and we just wanted to come in and try to be a difference maker in whatever we can do,” said Mr Carrell, who grew up an hour away in Paducah, Kentucky.

Following the devastating tornadoes that swept through the central US, donations poured in from across the country. The state’s disaster relief fund has raised about $10 million so far from more than 66,000 donors.

Much of the relief effort has been focused on Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 people some 115 kilometres from Dawson Springs.

It, too, was levelled by the tornado, with whole city blocks flattened.

Shawn Carter was staying with her sister-in-law in Mayfield when the storm barrelled through town. The Virginia resident knew she would stick around to help in any way she could.

“It's almost like survivor's guilt and now you stay and you help,” she said.

Ms Carter is volunteering at a local church and helping to organise donations.

Throughout Mayfield, groups of volunteers can be seen on what is left of the city's streets, asking people if they need help.

Teresa Shanon, a retired Red Cross worker, has walked through the streets of Mayfield, offering any help or comfort she can provide.

“This is very scary. It's really sad,” she told The National. “But that's why I'm here helping out, you know, to put a smile on somebody's face.

Updated: December 15th 2021, 10:46 AM