You Can Be Warned, But Not Always Prepared

You can be warned about the potential destruction of a violent tornado, but you can never be prepared for the aftermath.

It is estimated that a tornado warning is given about 15 minutes before it hits. In Crittenden and Piner, Kentucky on March 2, 2012, I was told by a couple of residents that a mere minutes passed before the half-mile-wide EF4 touched down, taking a total of four lives, injuring eight, and leaving indescribable destruction.

I’d never been part of a disaster relief effort, but as a tornado- and weather-obsessed kid who’s grown up enjoying to volunteer, this particular opportunity presented by Cincinnati Habitat for Humanity really called out to me. Prior to this experience, I had only really seen stories regarding relief efforts recounted through various media outlets, so I was not totally sure of what to expect. I was astounded by the vast number of volunteers involved. Major corporations such as FedEx and Toyota had employees give their time and effort, and they represented their respective companies well.

After Habitat received its assignment for the day — that we were headed to the most damage-stricken area — our group boarded a yellow school bus at the Red Cross Disaster Relief center at Piner Baptist Church. The bus, full of eager, unassuming volunteers as well as relief equipment, meandered its way to Old Lexington Pike in Crittenden, Kentucky, as I was mentally preparing myself for what was in store for the day.

The juxtapositioning of sun and blue skies with unimaginable destruction was chilling. Just 30 seconds of ominous sky and wrath can destroy everything, while just one week later the weather was absolute perfection.

Damage done to a barn as well as an uprooted tree

I spoke to a woman who lives just two miles from Old Lexington Pike. Around ten homes once stood on this mile-and-a-half stretch of road. A few were destroyed and families lost everything: entire homes, cherished belongings, beloved pets. On that day, two lives were lost on Old Lexington Pike.

Her home was untouched.

Late-1800s farmhouse that was left with manageable structural damage on Old Lexington Pike

The family who lives in one of the homes still standing was very fortunate to have lost very few belongings. Instead, they lost a garage, rear addition, and were fortunately left with manageable structural damage to its sturdily-built, late-1800s farmhouse.

Just next door, however, a mobile home was completely destroyed, while two brick homes further down the street suffered the same fate.

Totally destroyed mobile home and additional damage as viewed from a field adjacent to the mobile home

I was humbled by this relief effort, and it was a privilege to work with Habitat in an effort that hit so close to home — literally and figuratively.

I did my best to prepare for what might be in store during this relief effort, but I could never truly be prepared for the aftermath.

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