PADUCAH, Ky. (BP) — In the eye of a storm that ripped the roof off the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, preschool director Michelle Rushing found calm for 40 children who were there sheltering in place.
As a tornado was sweeping through a five-mile stretch in west Kentucky around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday (March 14), Rushing guided the children into the innermost room, following the church’s storm plan, she told WPSD in Paducah. Then she said they sang songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands.”
Despite considerable damage to the church building, everyone inside was unharmed, the station reported. And despite severe damage to homes and businesses, there was only one reported injury and it was not life threatening, police said.
Dan Summerlin, the pastor of Lone Oak Baptist Church, had offered his church’s facilities to Mt. Zion this weekend. However, the church decided to have services in its Family Life Center, he said. Lone Oak is located less than 10 miles from Mt. Zion, he said.
The Lone Oak pastor commended the preschool workers at the church for keeping the children calm. “That shows they have well-trained workers,” he said. “If the adults stay calm, the kids will usually follow.”
First responders went door to door checking area homes to ensure everyone’s safety.
James Gardner was traveling from Cape Girardeau, Mo., when a grain bin blew onto Highway 60, wrapped itself around his pickup truck and flipped the vehicle over on the road, the West Kentucky Star reported.
Sheriff Matt Carter said his agency and Concord Fire Department responded and extricated him from the wreckage, and Gardner’s only injury was a small cut.
“The almighty hand of God has provided safety to our community,” Carter told the West Kentucky Star. “The destruction path is approximately five miles long. There are approximately three homes that are devastated but no injuries, and also there is approximately a half-dozen other homes that have sustained minor to moderate damage. This could have been an extremely high fatality rate, and we’re very fortunate and blessed to only report that one minor injury.”
Video of the tornado was posted on social media. Jared Borum filmed the forming twister as it moved across a field of trees in Paducah. Borum and a room full of others watched the funnel grow and whip across the field.
“It’s amazing. See the debris? You can see it hitting the trees,” Borum said on his recording.
The American Red Cross was providing shelter and assistance to those who were displaced. The Broadway United Methodist Church was being used as an evacuation center.
Several roads in the area were closed because of downed power lines. Linemen were on the scene restoring electricity to the more than 5,300 residents who were without power in the western Kentucky area.
The McCracken County Sheriff’s Department, the Kentucky State Police, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife officers are patrolling the area.
Two homes were destroyed in nearby Ballard County along with six barns, WPSD reported. Several cattle had to be put down after being hit with flying debris. However, no injuries were reported in that county either.
The tornado hit Ballard County and moved northeast for about four miles before crossing into McCracken County.
Judge-executives from both counties issued emergency declarations.