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WBTV returns to tornado-ravaged western Kentucky three months later

Humming machines wipe away storm debris, and a personal spirit of recovery continues in the hearts and hands of committed individuals.
Humming machines wipe away storm debris, and a personal spirit of recovery continues in the hearts and hands of committed individuals.
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 10:52 PM EST
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KENTUCKY (WBTV) - Finding the right words to describe what’s left of Mayfield, Kentucky is hard because silent and stirring images connected to the aftermath of December’s tornado speak loudly.

Humming machines wipe away storm debris, and a personal spirit of recovery continues in the hearts and hands of committed individuals.

Making sure American flags stand tall on Broadway is a personal chore for Air Force Veteran Al Rigler.

He repairs sagging banners by hand.

“I don’t drive by flags when they’re all tangled up and screwed up. I fix them,” Rigler said.

Three months later, it’s like members of the traveling circus fled town, and locals are fending for themselves.

Network television crews folded their tents, frequent news conferences have disappeared, and so have relentless appeals connected to relief agencies.

Father Eric Riley is the spiritual leader at Mayfield’s Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church, and his parish wears the scars of the 2021 storm.

The place of worship absorbed its share of damaging blows, and the school building next door was badly damaged by high winds and flying projectiles.

Moving forward in this community of 10,000, according to Father Riley, means finding a higher road and a higher calling.

“There’s always good in the world. We have to look for it. Good has always been there, he said.” It is now it has always been and as Saint John Paul the Second and Jesus said we must focus on the light,” Riley said.

The city’s well-known signature postcard image showcasing Mayfield remains intact.

While rebuilding offers hope, many downtown buildings have a future yet to be defined.

Lisa Isbell still wrestles with a changed landscape and offers a comparative perspective of current events.

“It’s terrible. It looks like a war zone. I feel sorry for all the people in Ukraine, it looks like a war zone here,” Isbell said.

In Mayfield, Kentucky residents are hoping for something beyond time looking for the gifts of sanity and serenity.

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