MAYFIELD, Ky. – The heartache continues two months after a powerful series of tornadoes leveled communities in eight states, including Kentucky.
The storm carved a path of destruction more than 200 miles long across the heartland. At least 90 people were killed and hundreds more were displaced in a single night.
The small western Kentucky city of Mayfield bore the brunt of the storm damage.
Taylor Massey, a Mayfield resident, tells Fox News she remembers Dec. 10 like it was yesterday.
The hairdresser was huddled at home with her parents when part of her roof collapsed and the house lifted off its foundation. After escaping the home, Massey said her family immediately assisted neighbors with clothing and first aid before EMTs started to respond.
“It was a constant battle just trying to get through all of that [debris] to see if we could find anybody, help anybody,” Massey said. “You’re grateful to survive but you feel guilty … each day makes it a little bit easier, but it’s hard to look at your town and see everything basically flattened.”
Today, the storm survivor is living with her cousin nearby, but it won’t be for long. Massey is one of 10 people recently approved to have their homes rebuilt by Homes and Hope, a local nonprofit organization. In late January, the group broke ground on the first home to be rebuilt in Mayfield after a December tornado.
“It was the most overwhelming news I’d heard in a long time. I’d only lived in my home for six months when the tornado happened … so to be able to get this new house, it’s amazing,” Massey said.
The group formed in response to the tornado devastation and partners with Amish and Mennonite builders. In addition to rebuilding hopes, the organization has undertaken home repair.
“The focus is on Mayfield and Graves County for homeowners who had no insurance or too little insurance, and the community has really rallied around that and joined our effort,” said Heather Massey, a co-chair for Homes and Hope. “We’re looking to rebuild homes in their same spots and put them [homeowners] back in a home as soon as possible.”
The organization is just one of many relief efforts across Mayfield.
The city’s mayor, Kathy O’Nan, said the support is needed as the community plans to rebuild. The city lost nearly every county and municipal government building in the wake of December’s tornado. Across Mayfield, cleanup crews have begun to demolish the remains of the city’s largest buildings, including offices and churches.
“We look out across our town with our hearts broken, but what follows is the beauty of humanity,” O’Nan said. “What has come to us in the form of help and donations of every kind show me we are a nation of kind giving souls.”
O’Nan told Fox News disaster assistance has poured in from volunteers, federal agencies and individual donors across the country.
“I got a call from Mayfield, New York, and because we share a name that city and county, through their sheriff’s office, decided to start a fundraiser that’s collected $86,000,” O’Nan said. “They are a sister city of ours from now on, and if they ever need anything we will respond.”
In January, the state purchased 200 trailers to temporarily house displaced Mayfield families in Dawson Springs.
The state’s Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has also raised more than $41 million dollars. So far, more than $700,000 has been allocated to funeral expenses, and Gov. Andy Beshear has said additional spending will take time.
The federal government has also provided $45 million in financial assistance to Kentucky’s tornado survivors.
FEMA branch director Keith Denning said $12 million went toward assistance for families and individuals, including $8.5 million for housing assistance. The remaining $33 million went to low-interest SBA loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.
The deadline for tornado survivors to apply for housing assistance through FEMA is Feb. 11.