Seek for lacking individuals continues 7 days after lethal tornadoes in Kentucky

DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky. – Taresa Linton keeps a notebook on the missing persons.

Sitting at a table in a school in Dawson Springs that has been converted into a relief center, she scrawls names on white spiral pages every time a desperate family member comes looking for lost loved ones.

On the night that the deadly tornado ripped through her city on December 10th, she made a list of missing persons, which she forwarded to rescue workers. Just days ago, more than 100 people were reported missing across Kentucky – many fear the worst.

‘The whole place was gone’: Dawson Springs is working to control the wrath of the tornado

But by Friday, after the work of search and rescue teams, police, volunteers, and family social networks, those numbers had dropped sharply – as had those on Linton’s list.

“We have people on site working on a live list,” Linton said. she hopes that those who remain can simply not be reached by concerned family members. “We pray that happened.”

Governor Andy Beshear said Thursday that only 16 people have been reported missing who have not yet been held accountable, including 15 in Hopkins County, where Dawson Springs is located. (Later Thursday that number dropped to one in Hopkins County).

Beshear cautioned.

“Remember, we only know if someone is missing when they have been reported missing,” he said. “There are certainly stories of people who are still looking for people who are important to them.”

Part of the challenge has been to evict residents, some of whom may have lost their phones and been hospitalized, taken to emergency shelters, or staying with others who do not know their relatives.

In Mayfield, housing authority said it reached only half of the 400 families in subsidized or public housing displaced by the tornado, officials said.

Arkansas-based Debbie Lewis spent days reaching out to relatives, a couple in their 70s who lived near the badly damaged Mayfield candle factory. Her calls kept going on voicemail.

Eventually she learned that one had been killed. The other had been hospitalized but safe and was being looked after by other Kentucky relatives.

By the end of that week, she said, “We didn’t know if they were missing or if they weren’t on the phone.”

Kentucky state police officer Sarah Burgess said the first few episodes of the tornadoes saw specially trained urban search and rescue teams deployed in hard-hit locations.

How they survived: Stories from those who made it through the deadly tornadoes in Kentucky

Starting from the Mayfield city limits, they moved to the surrounding counties and rural areas, and then returned to work in Mayfield.

Dogs have been deployed to aid in primary and secondary search and rescue efforts directed by Indiana Task Force 1, Missouri Task Force 1, and other fire and rescue organizations.

“We went door to door,” said Burgess, “or in some cases rubble to rubble for each apartment in the area of ​​destruction.”

Describing the progress made so far, Burgess said teams were able to track people stranded in their homes with no access to electricity or water and move them to shelters and state parks.

Urban search and rescue teams have now been replaced with local law enforcement agencies – including the Kentucky State Police, Mayfield City Police Department, Graves County Sheriff’s Office, the National Guard, and several other agencies – to continue searching for the well-being of people who have No contact with loved ones since the storm.

At His House Ministries Church in Mayfield, state police used high-speed DNA technology on relatives of the missing to help identify the victims.

But the remaining people on the state’s missing list doesn’t mean the death toll won’t keep rising as cities and more remote rural areas of western Kentucky investigate the full extent of the damage.

Dawson Springs volunteers have helped people reunite with missing relatives, including anxious phone calls from relatives in other states.

In some cases, failed attempts to reach local residents brought a flurry of tears and relief when found in shelters, motels, or hospitals.

“Hey, I found Ricky. He’s checking into school, ”says volunteer Robert Henshaw, recalling one such case. “It was overwhelming and relieving – it was just crazy.”

Kentucky Tornado Victims: The death toll reaches 76 victims. Here are the names we know

But the death toll may not have ended.

“I don’t think we’ll know until we get these houses out of the ground because I think many of our missing people are still trapped under their homes,” said Ann Marie Kramper, who helped organize volunteers and aid organizations has since last week.

As of Thursday noon, 76 people in Kentucky had been confirmed dead by local and state officials.

Near Thursday, Katie Moyer briefed volunteers from North Carolina who were clearing trees from homes. They examined two large maps and Moyer asked them to keep looking for those that were not recorded.

“Check to see if they’re missing,” Moyer told them.

Back at school, Linton, whose husband is the local fire chief, sat at her desk. Directly behind her were tables with toiletries, clothes, and other items.

Your phone rang. It was a recall about a missing family member. She turned to her notebook and scribbled another name.

Chris Kenning is a statewide corporate writer. Reach him at Follow him on Twitter @chris_kenning

Looking for a missing person?

Kentucky state police have said to call 270-856-3721 to call anyone who is still looking for missing people.

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