Storm recovery proceeding in counties, officials say

Dec. 10—Bremen Mayor Allen Miller was at home the night of Dec. 10, 2021, when the EF-4 tornado that had already done so much damage appeared over Muhlenberg County.

Miller, whose property was hit, but only slightly, was struck by the randomness of the damage.

"I lost a few trees in my yard," Miller said. The home two houses down, however, "was completely gone," he said.

A year later, the city is moving forward, Miller said: Homes damaged and destroyed are being rebuilt, and the town has resumed many of its normal routines. For example, the town's annual Christmas parade was held last Saturday.

Life in Bremen is "as normal as possible," Miller said.

Muhlenberg County, particularly Bremen, and Ohio County both sustained significant tornado damage in the Dec. 10, 2021, storm. Miller and Ohio County Judge-Executive David Johnston said there has been an outpouring of support and the work to rebuild is continuing and progressing.

"We are on track," Johnston said of the rebuilding effort in Ohio County. "Many homes have been rebuilt.

"It's never enough or quick enough, but we are on track," Johnston said.

The National Weather Service in Paducah says 84 structures and homes were destroyed in Bremen, and an additional 81 were damaged. Miller estimates about half of the residents who lost their homes are back in permanent housing.

"The rest remain under some stage of construction, and just a few haven't started yet," Miller said.

Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, which sustained heavy damage, is close to completing work on its fellowship hall, and church officials "hope to be having services in the fellowship hall by the first of the year," Miller said.

Residents remember those who were killed in the tornado. The city will hold a memorial service from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. tonight at Bremen Elementary School.

The city is recovering because residents and volunteers have worked to repair the damage, Miller said.

"It was amazing how well everyone in the community pulled together, not counting the help we received from other places," Miller said.

Support came from as far away as Texas and Florida to assist in the recovery, he said.

"I'm still working with volunteer groups," Miller said. "We have volunteer groups contacting us right now" who plan to do landscaping around the newly built homes in the spring, he said.

Johnston, who home when the storm struck Ohio County, lost communications and had to travel through the debris to contact emergency officials.

"I knew it was bad," Johnston said. But although several families had terribly close calls, no county residents were killed or seriously injured.

"One family, a husband and wife, were down in a cellar — he had a hard time getting his wife down there," Johnston said. When the tornado swept through, "the only thing that survived was the hole they were down in," he said.

There were numerous stories like that in Ohio County, accounts of "miracle after miracle," Johnston said.

For the county, the most urgent task was clearing the roads, Johnston said. Both state crews, and the county road department, hauled tons of debris off the roads.

"There was an amazing amount of material moved in three days," Johnston said. Within three days, the roads were clear.

There's still more work to be done, mostly among individual home owners still repairing damage. But Johnston said other tasks for the county remain, such as clearing limbs and debris from waterways, a project that will be done with federal funds.

"It was a sad day, but it's good how we bounced back," Johnston said.

"We had a lot of help — just a lot of people helping their neighbors," he said.