Dozens died, and more were injured, in one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in the United States in years. More than 50 tornadoes left a path of devastation across six states in the evening of December 10 through early morning December 11. The worst destruction occurred in Kentucky as the storms produced extensive and unprecedented death and damage through many communities. The twisters destroyed homes, factories, municipal buildings and other structures, often trapping people inside and leaving rescue workers searching for people in the wreckage. In Mayfield, Kentucky, a tornado leveled more than half of the town, including a factory with many workers inside. Tens of thousands of people across Kentucky and Tennessee were initially without power and water. Shelters were opened in Tennessee and Kentucky and people have also been sheltering with family and friends.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear described the storm as one of the worst disasters his state has ever experienced, and President Joseph Biden visited the area to witness the devastation and commit federal assistance in the immediate response and in the recovery. Previously, he had approved federal emergency declarations for Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois.
Americares deployed an emergency response team that began their work in the heavily impacted areas in and around Mayfield, Kentucky. The organization is also prepared to deliver relief supplies to the affected communities as needed.
“Hundreds of people have lost homes or loved ones only two weeks before the holidays. It’s absolutely heartbreaking,” said Americares Vice President of Emergency Programs Kate Dischino. “Our hearts go out to the families affected by this devastating disaster and we stand ready to help.”
Mayfield resident Jerry Crouch’s home after it took a direct hit by the December 11 tornado that destroyed more than half of downtown Mayfield, December 19, 2021. (Photo/Jeff Kennel)
Watch Latest Video Update from our Emergency Team on the ground and from survivors.
“…there are swaths of destruction in places like Mayfield, Dawson Springs and Bremen where houses have essentially been reduced to a pile of matchsticks and a foundation. A really shocking level of destruction that speaks to the power and violence of these tornadoes. “…
Andrew Dunn, Americares emergency response team leader
The response team, which includes disaster mental health specialists, has provided free, psychosocial support in Mayfield, Kentucky to help tornado survivors and responders cope with trauma and loss. The Latino community in western Kentucky is among the hardest hit and Americares disaster mental health experts offered psychosocial services in English and Spanish. Americares has significant experience and capacity in disaster mental health. The team provided services in the aftermath of devastating tornadoes that killed at least 77 people in the state, injured many more, and caused billions of dollars in damage.
Also in the Mayfield community, Americares has awarded a $20,000 grant to restock the ARcare mobile medical unit with medicine, medical supplies and equipment. The mobile clinic has been visiting shelters housing families displaced by the tornadoes, providing primary care and behavioral health services as well as replacing medication lost in the storms.
We are ready to deliver relief supplies to assist communities as requests for aid come in while continuing our outreach to assist partner health facilities in the affected areas. We have offered assistance to more than 150 organizations—local health centers as well as state and national response partners. Efforts are ongoing to follow up with partners as we continue to assess partners needs for access to medicine and medical supplies, emergency funding, and additional mental health and psychosocial support needs as clinics resume operations in the new year. At least two health centers in Kentucky experienced physical damage to their facilities, including roof damage and windows blown in.
After the immediate needs are met for survivors, the recovery period will be long, difficult and may go on for many months, even years. Americares is committed to help in that process as long as we are needed. The organization is also prepared to provide emergency funding to restore health services in affected communities.
Mental Health Support After a Disaster
Disasters don’t just create devastating physical damage, they also cause emotional trauma and the need for mental health services. The emotional effects can be long-lasting for survivors who are directly and indirectly affected, as well as responders helping with relief efforts.
Psychological First Aid is designed to reduce the distress caused by traumatic events and provide a sense of safety and comfort. Survivors and responders in need of ongoing support will be referred to local providers. By providing intervention, Americares is meeting a critical need in the Mayfield community and mitigating the long-term mental health impact of the tornadoes. Even as homes and businesses are rebuilt, many people are still processing their pain and loss.
From the Field
Americares communications staff was on the ground in Kentucky with the emergency response team, sharing the images and stories of survival, memories and hope. The losses are beyond measure, but the work ahead begins as families look for a way forward.
The Ramos family returned to what is left of their home to see what’s salvageable after the December 11 tornado. Their house collapsed on top of them, however, they managed to survive with minor injuries. Jose, the father, said his wife protected the children like a mother hen, sheltering them under her body. And then she goes to work saving and finding and looking beyond the rubble.
A mother keeps her children safe as their home collapses upon them, so they can live to play another day and keep hope alive.
From another generational perspective, for the Crouches, a couple with 50 years of history in a house, the losses are of a whole other dimension.
Surviving the unimaginable power of the Mayfield tornado, long-term residents face the loss of decades of history as they step into an unknown future. The long story of the Crouches and of the whole Mayfield community continues in spite of the losses – stories to be told and shared.
On December 10, there was a street in a town here. On December 11, this was all that remained.
Americares has professional relief workers ready to respond to disasters at a moment’s notice and has a long history of responding to emergencies in the U.S., including the 2013 Moore, Oklahoma tornado, Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and, most recently, Hurricane Ida.
Americares responds to an average of 30 natural disasters and humanitarian crises worldwide each year, establishes long-term recovery projects and brings preparedness programs to communities vulnerable to disasters. Since its founding more than 40 years ago, Americares has provided more than $20 billion in aid to 164 countries.
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