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'My New Kentucky Home'; Bowling Green tornado survivors one year after deadly storm

As recovery continues in Bowling Green, new life is all around in the year since the deadly December tornadoes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Even though things seem normal on a sunny afternoon in Bowling Green, boarded-up homes are a reminder of what happened a year ago.

Mervat Wahba and Sami Sourial lived on Moss Creek Avenue the night a devastating EF-3 tornado hit tore through the community, killing 11 people who lived in three homes on the street. Seven of the dead were children.

Now, their family will move into a newly-built Habitat for Humanity home miles away.

But Sourial said the trauma from the December 2021 tornado outbreak still haunts her family. 

When the wind and the rain picks up, they get worried, what if this is the next bad storm?

"Everyone in my home is scared," she said. "Raining. Shower, everyone is scared, me and my two daughters. But what can I do?"

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One year later and some homes still have windows and doors boarded up, lingering reminders of the nightmare that took place that night.

Much of Moss Creek has been rebuilt in the year after the storm. It's why Mohammad Fenjan stayed, forever thankful for the help he got.

“I got so much help. I got a new car, clothes and food and everything and paid for my hotel, I got the hotel for two months," he said. "The government paid me for two months."

Fenjan had nothing but praise for how strangers and the government helped.

"When I got here, I told God, God bless America and God bless government," he said.

Rodney Goodman, who leads the Habitat for Humanity Bowling Green, said he's forever thankful to the enormous and quick support from the Habitat for Humanity Metro Louisville folks.

"Habitat Humanity of Metro Louisville sent their entire construction crew down here," he said. "They sent team leaders for half of our homes; they not only brought volunteers they sent their paid staff, they held a bourbon raffle that helped to raise money for us to build three homes."

Despite the raised money, Bowling Green families will still have to take on some financial responsibility.

"They will get $40,000 in direct subsidies that will help them buy down their mortgage. That means the unit is appraised at $150,000 and their first mortgage is $110 at zero percent interest," Goodman said.

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Sami Sourial said her family still holds trauma from the December 2021 tornadoes. When it rains or the wind picks up, they still get scared.

Goodman said they're hoping the houses will be able to withstand the next storm. 

Each house comes with a small crawl space underneath, but when an EF-3 tornado is barreling toward your home, where do you go?

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear told WHAS11 that specially fortified storm shelters are headed to Bowling Green and other parts of western Kentucky for people without basements.

"We have kids down here that have lived through this and when it rains, that's a concern to them. A storm isn't a storm anymore," Goodman said.

In the time being, Wahba and Sourial are expecting their next child. Soon the couple will bring their baby back to their new Kentucky home.

Despite the lingering worries, as recovery continues in Bowling Green, new life is all around in the year since the tornadoes.

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