It could take many years to rebuild a tornado-ravaged Kentucky city

MAYFIELD (Ky.) -- Harley Kelso, 60, knows what he is getting from his sister, despite it being a few days off.

It could take many years to rebuild a tornado-ravaged Kentucky city

Retired truck driver and his car were damaged by the tornado last week, which swept across the South and Midwest, killing at most 90 people. His sister, who lives in Mayfield, has brought chainsaws and her sons with him to help cut down a tree that was resting on his minivan.

Kelso, wearing a T-shirt with the World's Greatest Papa on it, said that she had lost her car and the corner section of my porch. "I'm glad that everyone survived the incident."

Although it may seem odd to express gratitude after a tornado that ripped through large parts of Mayfield, it is a common sentiment in this tight-knit community with 10,000 residents.

Kelso admits that even with his minivan buried under a huge tree, his entire front yard hanging from the roots, and windows smashed, and his home without power or running water, he is resolute, if not downright optimistic about the task ahead.

He smiled and said, "I'm going bring a breakfast to my daughter," while clutching a bag full of breakfast tacos that he had collected from one of the many volunteers who walked the streets offering hot meals or cold drinks.

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Wednesday's visit by President Joe Biden to the community was a sign of his support for the federal government and promised that he would continue to work with them in rebuilding the community.

Standing in front of a devastation town center, the president stated, "I will do whatever it takes to support my state, your local leaders as you recover, rebuild, and you'll recover, rebuild."

According to Michael Dossett, Kentucky Emergency Management Director, one of the most urgent challenges facing Mayfield is the removal of the debris left behind by the storms.

Dossett stated Thursday that "this is going to be the largest piece of the recovery," during a press conference held at Frankfort's state Capitol. "Debris removal, which is an integral part of rebuilding the city infrastructure but also for all our homeowners, is one of the most crucial pieces."

Yards and streets in the city are littered with trash: shingles, downed tree branches, shingles, mangled toys for children, and mud-caked clothes. Upper branches of trees that have not been completely removed have been trimmed. Others have crashed into homes or cars.

Many homes have had their roofs removed from the foundations or torn off. Some have been reduced to a pile of bricks and insulation, while others are reduced to splintered lumber.

Heavy equipment operators worked in the middle of town clearing rubble from entire blocks. Volunteers sorted through the rubble to salvage what they could at what was once a steam cleaning business. A few steam cleaners stood near the edge of the pile.

Chris Chiles, disaster coordinator at the Danville, Virginia-based God's Pit Crew who has been helping storm-ravaged communities since more than 20 years, stated that the damage and devastation caused by Mayfield could be severe enough to make it take years for the community to return to normal.

Chiles stated that there is a lot of work to be done. Chiles said, "I have been doing this for 14+ years across the country and it is hard to get any worse."

It will take a while. Years, unfortunately."

Chiles stated that a town that has survived such a devastating event is often rebuilt and re-established. It's usually stronger and closer to its people.

He said, "The loss is terrible, but sometimes neighbors don’t know each other. Things like this bring people closer."

However, not all are ready to rebuild.

Chris Eigenrauch (49), whose house was one of the most severely damaged by the storm, stated that the idea of rebuilding a whole community is too daunting. He stated that he is considering moving to Illinois, where several relatives reside.

He said, "It's going take months, if it not years,". "I plan to leave. For those who are staying, I pray God will help them rebuild.

Kelso works 20 hours per week as a short-order chef and isn't certain how long it will take for his home to be restored to normal. His faith is unshakeable.

He said, "This is a difficult community." "We will come together."

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