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Tornado Survivors Still Rebuilding One Year Later

March 2, 2013

By Jim Warren

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WEST LIBERTY, March 2 -- Today is a day of both joy and sorrow for Joyce Morris.

It will be a joyous day because Morris` brand-new energy-efficient home, just finished by Habitat for Humanity, will be dedicated in West Liberty, one year to the day after her old rental house was destroyed when a tornado ripped through town. Morris and her three children escaped injury, taking shelter in a bathroom.

"If you had told me a year ago that I was going to be a homeowner, I would have just laughed at you," she said last week. "Now, my kids have plans for decorating their room and all the landscaping outside."

But there will be sorrow as Morris remembers six Morgan Countians who died in the devastating storm on March 2, 2012.

That afternoon -- just two days after at least 11 tornadoes had struck various parts of Kentucky -- a powerful storm unleashed the state`s deadliest wave of twisters in 38 years.

Scattered tornadoes raged across a wide swath, from Henderson County in Western Kentucky to Kenton County in Northern Kentucky, extending south almost to Tennessee, and reaching east to West Virginia. The storms directly or indirectly caused 25 deaths in six counties and millions of dollars in damage. Only the tornadoes of April 1974, which caused 77 deaths, had more fatalities.

According to state figures, more than 670 homes were destroyed and more than 4,500 were damaged. Those figures didn`t include damage to businesses and governmental properties.

Over the past year, government agencies have pumped millions of dollars in relief and assistance into communities affected by the storms. According to state estimates, that includes $8.3 million in housing assistance, $2 million in other forms of assistance, $11.6 million in Small Business Administration loans, $500,000 in SBA business loans, and $16.8 million obligated by the Federal Emergency Management Administration for government repair or replacement projects.

In addition, almost $30 million in grants from government and private sources will go to help rebuild downtown West Liberty, the city that suffered the most damage.

Thanks to such efforts -- plus work by armies of volunteers -- life in the affected counties gradually has returned to something like normal. But more work remains.

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(c)2013 The Lexington Herald-Leader, Lexington, Ky.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Story image: Aerial photo courtesy of Mark Powers, Josh Kiefer, and Austin Lassell of Kentuckiana Volunteer Aviators, and the NWS Louisville, Ky.

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