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After EF-3 tornado devastates Bowling Green, Western Kentucky student says it changes city forever

"The fact that people care enough to help another city out means a lot especially since this is such a special place to people in Louisville.”

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The morning of Dec. 11, Western Kentucky University senior Paxton Vaughn planned to attend her college graduation. That shifted, when a tornado devastated Bowling Green, Kentucky in the early morning hours.

“Growing up in Louisville, tornadoes happened and they weren’t terrible so I thought it would be fine” Vaughn said.

Friday night, she and her roommates went to sleep, but later scrambled to get down to their basement to shelter.

In the morning, Vaughn said her family called asking if she was ok, and she got a notification graduation was canceled.

“I was upset about that and then I started seeing other things that oh my gosh families are losing their homes businesses are completely gone,” Vaughn said.

Vaughn said students went to some of their favorite businesses along the bypass near Broadway Avenue that were destroyed to help business owners clean up and gather what could be salvaged.

She said others went to volunteer at the Red Cross shelter at South Warren Middle School, where donations were collected and people stayed overnight Saturday.

"People want to give, please do give in a way that's going to make an impact,” Jennifer Capps, with the Red Cross of South Central Kentucky, said.

From Saturday into Sunday, Capps said the shelter housed more than 70 people. When she arrived Sunday, about two dozen more came through needing aid.

After power was restored to Jennings Elementary, volunteers began moving donated items there, because it’s closer to center of the damage. Capps said it would be easier to get people the help and supplies they need.

RELATED: How to help Western Kentucky families following historic tornado outbreak

“Until we get into deep client assistance, we’re asking for monetary donations from now on just to make sure that we can get the recovery moving,” she said.

Sunday, thousands were still without power in Bowling Green. The Warren County Coroner confirmed he is investigating 12 deaths related to the tornado. The office is working to make identifications.

Officials with the police department said they are continuing to investigate a handful of reports of missing people.

Fire officials said they’ve completed primary and secondary searches in many areas, and moved on Sunday to searching through debris.

Sunday afternoon, Senator Rand Paul toured the Jennings Creek area near Creekwood Avenue, which officials said is the most devastated area.

“You see the goodness of other people coming out, you see people traveling from other states,” Paul said.

Vaughn said for her, it was inspiring to see the aid efforts that poured in from her home city, Louisville.

"The fact that people care enough to help another city out means a lot especially since this is such a special place to people in Louisville,” she said of WKU.

The Warren County Sheriff asked that people with loved ones missing call (270) 393-4116.

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