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Public Statements

Friday's Tornadoes

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, last Friday evening tornadoes hit several counties across Kentucky, including Magoffin, Menifee, Morgan, Laurel, Martin, Johnson, and Trimble. I might say these were not just tornadoes, these were very severe tornadoes all over the southern and midwestern part of our country leaving an incredible trail of devastation across many of our States.

In my State the storm caused at least 20 fatalities and more than 300 people in Kentucky were injured. Forty-eight Kentucky counties suffered damage from the storms and tornadoes Friday evening. I am told that about 19,000 people were without power yesterday. This morning my colleague Senator Paul and I sent a letter to the President urging him to approve Gov. Steven Beshear's request for Federal assistance.

Yesterday I had a chance to visit arguably the hardest hit of our communities, West Liberty, KY. It was a scene of total devastation. The whole community has either been evacuated or is in the process of being evacuated. The county judge--in our State the county judge is like the county executive in a number of States--Tim Conley, and Mayor Rupe, the mayor of West Liberty, and I toured, frankly, what little is left of the community. I ran into the county attorney there. Not only had her home been wiped out, her office had been wiped out.

The most poignant story of the day was when one of the local residents came up to one of my assistants and said: Here, I found $70. It doesn't belong to me. I want you to take it and see to it that it is used for the community.

My assistant said: No one knows where the $70 came from or who it belongs to and you are wiped out. Why don't you keep it?

This citizen of West Liberty, KY, said: ``I just wouldn't feel right about it.''

``I just wouldn't feel right about it.'' Those are the kind of people who are in West Liberty, KY. Those are the kind of people today who are homeless, who have lost friends and relatives. Of course, in a town that is devastated there are no jobs. Where do people go to work when their place of business has been wiped out?

FEMA is on the ground, and we will do everything we can to try to help these good folks rebuild their lives. Similar stories are the case in a number of other Kentucky counties, but West Liberty I singled out because it was probably the most devastated of any of our communities.

I applaud the work of the first responders. There were people from all over my State who immediately came to the site, some of them with some official responsibility--they were with the Red Cross or they were with the National Guard. In fact, there were 400 National Guard troops mobilized across the State in these severely hit areas. But many of the people I ran into in West Liberty, KY, were simply people who got in their cars, loaded them up with bottled water and whatever food they could come up with, and went there to be helpful.

There was one restaurant in another town that sent in a very large number of barbecue sandwiches just to try to feed the people who were there trying to help get started. I went to the command center. Of course, one of the biggest questions in a situation such as that is, what do you do first? Obviously, the first effort to get the power back on. The AEP, the power company, was there trying to get the power up and running. Then they had a priority chart: What do you do second? What do you do third?

I want to express to them and say again on the Senate floor today, we are going to be there for these good folks not only in West Liberty but in the other counties that were hit in our State. That is why FEMA exists. They do a good job. Hopefully, it will not require any additional funding for us to have to appropriate. Hopefully, they will have enough funds in their budget to take care of this, but if there is a shortfall we will be there to be helpful.

I wanted to share with my colleagues today the devastation to which we were subjected last weekend. It is reminiscent of a tornado that hit Kentucky in the 1970s. I remember it went into my mother and father's neighborhood. The house next door to them was obliterated. The houses across the street were obliterated. Amazingly enough, my mothers and father's house seemed largely untouched. There were very few homes in West Liberty, KY, yesterday or Friday night that were untouched. It came through there with a stunning force.

I heard one story I will also relate. The county judge was in a building and literally grabbed somebody by the leg and pulled him inside the building as the storm was attempting to suck him out into the street. He was able to save that person. So the incredible force of these massive tornadoes is truly destructive, and we will help local residents get their lives back together as soon as we possibly can.

I yield the floor.


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