Family survives tornado in Hopkins Co.

Published: Dec. 11, 2021 at 9:28 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 11, 2021 at 8:33 PM CST
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HOPKINS CO., Ky. (WFIE) - Crews are still working to repair the damage left in the wake of a tornado that passed through Earlington on Friday night.

This portion of Friday’s storm destroyed several homes, acres of land and even derailed a train.

“We have multiple houses damaged in this particular area, we have a train derailment that appears to be a result of the tornado,” Chief Chris Cothran with the Earlington Fire Department said.

Newscast Recording

The train was derailed near Highway 41.

Our crew on scene spotted two cars that were separated from the rest of the train. The engine and rest of the cars stretched about a half mile down the tracks.

Chief Cothran says with cleanup and searches happening around the damage site, taking care of the train will be a long process.

Many people caught in the wreckage say they are grateful to still be alive.

“They say it sounds like a train. It’s a lot worse than a train,” Jesse Johnson, who was at the center of the tornado in Earlington, said.

The storm tore his father’s neighborhood just off of Hopkinsville Road to shreds.

Johnson says they knew about the storm too late, so they did what they could to protect themselves.

“Me and my wife were in the hallway, underneath a mattress,” Johnson said. “My mom and dad and niece and nephew and her boyfriend were under the kitchen table.”

As the winds roared, those under the table found themselves struck with bits of broken glass and debris, as the front of the house was torn away.

“I know I grabbed my husband’s hand and I told him I loved him and started praying,” Christy Johnson said.

The neighbors who spoke with 14 News say only a few families were in a similar situation, as most had evacuated.

“There were some people and children that were found in a bathtub that were okay,” Chief Cothran said.

Fortunately, most people in the area were only minorly hurt.

“There were some injuries, but it did not appear to be anything life-threatening,” Cothran said.

But sometimes the pain felt when the dust settles is far from physical.

“It got real quiet after, and I told everybody, ‘Just wait because it might not be over.’” Johnson said. “So we waited a few minutes and then - then we came out.”

The Johnson family says they are not sure what they will do next, but they are just glad they can still do it together.

Officials say the cleanup is going to take a long time.

People in the area affected by Friday nights storms are encouraged to reach out to law enforcement if they believe someone is missing.

Chris Tapp with EMA in Hopkins County says people can call 270-825-5024 to locate family members in the affected area.

Tapp also says this service will be available all day, but it should not be used to report a missing person.

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