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Earlington community begins to recover from tornado destruction

Published: Dec. 11, 2021 at 11:52 PM CST
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EARLINGTON, Ky. (WFIE) - Hopkins County is no stranger to tornados.

In 2005, the community was hit by a massive tornado that led to widespread damage.

On Friday night, they were hit again, this time much harder.

“Several of us worked the 2005 tornado, so we were talking about the difference between that one and this one,” said Hopkins County Sheriff Matt Sanderson. “The one in 2005 was bad, but not like this one, this one was really bad. As a matter of fact, there’s going to be some causalities for sure.”

[Gov. Beshear: 70 or more deaths likely after storms in Ky.]

At least 12 are dead. Dozens more are missing or injured.

The tornado that hammered Earlington produced winds strong enough to knock a train off its tracks.

“The train actually stopped right in front of my house,” said Will Townsell, a local teenager whose neighborhood was hit hard by the tornado. “We later drove up here and realized the train had been carried up on the hill. I ain’t ever seen nothing like it.”

[Authorities: 12 deaths in Bremen, additional deaths in Dawson Springs due to overnight storms]

Nearly all the homes were damaged, many stripped down to just their foundation.

Neighbors combed the wreckage to find any personal items they could salvage.

The storms not only damaged property, but also erased some homes.

“The husband and wife was in the trailer, they got tossed around pretty bad and injured,” said Carolyn Esters, the grandmother of a family who was hospitalized for injuries suffered during the storm. “It’s more or less like the trailer just exploded on them.”

“There’s all kinds of wind, and the building felt like it was getting picked up off the ground,” said Townsell.

Even in the aftermath of one of the worst storms the Tri-State has ever seen, the Hopkins County community is coming together.

“I bet I had 30 text messages and phone calls of people offering support,” Sheriff Sanderson said. “People were asking, ‘What can we do, do you guys need food, where can I take water to the people of Dawson Springs, what do they need?’ And again, that speaks to the kind of community that we live in.”

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