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'It's still a shocker, it hurts everyday': Mayfield community on the mend one month after deadly tornado

It's been 30 days since tornadoes ripped through Western Kentucky- killing 77 people and leaving a trail of devastation more than 100 miles long.

MAYFIELD, Ky. — It’s hard to believe it’s already been one month since tornadoes ripped through Western Kentucky. The storms destroyed neighborhoods, took out businesses, and forced small communities to figure out what it means to rebuild. Now, 30 days into that process, WHAS11 is finding out what that looks like by revisiting the areas that took the hardest hits. 

MAYFIELD, KY

Hit December 10th, 2021 at 10:30 p.m.

In Mayfield, there have been major signs of improvement including children finally back in the classroom for the first time Monday. All homes that are liveable have had electricity returned and traffic can move safely through most streets that were closed due to debris.

But everywhere you look, there are signs of the storm that ripped through on December 10th. Everywhere you look, you see the community still has a long way to go. 

Credit: WHAS11

Throughout the town, homes and businesses are covered with tarps and plywood.  Workers are still found on top of homes, piecing together roofs.

The first week after the storm there were thousands of volunteers in Mayfield and surrounding towns. That number has now dwindled significantly. 

"A lot of those organizations are gone. They were an immediate response. But the Red Cross has been here- we will continue to be here- but even what we're doing will change and will become more of a long-term recovery effort," Misty Thomas with the American Red Cross said. 

She explained the efforts are transitioning out of "survival mode" and into long-term recovery planning. 

Thomas said, "We're beginning to all shift into what the vision for the future, for the recovery of these communities."

 It’s a process she said will literally take years to complete. She FEMA and Red Cross, among other agencies, will work together to create a plan. Until that plan is finalized, she said the teams still have their work cut out for them- battling disaster fatigue. 

"I think the initial shock of what happened turned into sorrow and grief, I've seen stages of anger. But now I think it’s a month into this and the people are just exhausted. They just want to go back to what it was on December 9th," Thomas explained.

Most churches and schools that were donation sites and food kitchens have transitioned back to their intended uses. Of the thousands of volunteers that once filled Mayfield's streets most have moved on… but one man still serves. His name is Micah Seavers, but around time he's become known as Mayfield's man on a mission. 

 "Mister Micah here- he's just a gift- one that never stops giving," Mayfield resident Anthony Lopez explained. 

Seavers started delivering food during the first days after the disaster. He's said he hasn't stopped since then. "I'll be honest with you, the days just kind of run together," he said. 

Every day he delivers supplies, when the cold temperatures hit he switched from food to warm clothing and fuel. 

"Well cold doesn't give a timeline and hungry doesn't give a timeline so I reckon when people stop be cold and stop being hungry, I'll stop," Seavers said. 

 

Credit: WHAS

The memorial wall in Mayfield still sits at the center of town, displaying dozens of pictures tenderly taped between flowers and ribbons. Some of the faces might be familiar, including baby Oaklynn and Jill Monroe, who is from Oldham County, but died in the Mayfield candle factory.

"It's just unbelievable", local George Washington said, as he walked by the wall. The 84-year-old said he sees it every day on his walks through downtown but it's still hard to comprehend. 

Hundreds of families are still displaced in Mayfield. They are currently considered homeless and living in hotels, shelter or with family. Finding them housing is a priority for relief officials, but it will take time. 

American Red Cross leaders said their team tackling the next phases of relief plans to be in the community for the next 18-24 months. 

Credit: WHAS

Contact reporter Shay McAlister at smcalister@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@WHAS11Shay) and Facebook.

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