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Public Statements

Midwest Storms

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, I come to the floor again today to resume a conversation with my colleagues about the incredible wave of destructive storms and tornadoes that ripped through my home State of Kentucky, along with several other States in the Midwest, on Friday March 2.

As I have already stated on this floor, these were very severe tornadoes, with at least 11 funnel clouds confirmed to have touched down in the Bluegrass State by the National Weather Service, blowing at wind speeds up to 125 miles per hour.

We now know that these deadly storms claimed 23 lives in Kentucky, and more than 300 were injured. We have heard stories like that of Stephanie Decker, currently in stable condition at the University Hospital of Louisville, who raced home during the storm just in time to hurry her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter into the basement of their three-story, brick-and-stone house.

She covered their tiny bodies with her own as the tornado crashed the house down on top of them. Stephanie has lost one leg above the knee and the other above the ankle, but her children survived without a scratch.

The weekend immediately after the storms I visited the part of Kentucky that was arguably hardest hit by them, the town of West Liberty. The town is home to just 3,400 people--and all 3,400 lives have been thrown into chaos, as virtually the entire population had to be evacuated.

Churches, homes, schools, and businesses are reduced to rubble. The town courthouse and city hall are both in ruins. Basically, this once-thriving, happy little community is now barely there.

Scenes from West Liberty are replicated across the State in places like Magoffin, Menifee, Kenton, Morgan, Laurel, Lawrence, Martin, Pulaski, Johnson, and Trimble counties, which are among the hardest hit.

And too many Kentucky families are mourning what was taken from them by the storms that can never be replaced.

In Lawrence County, Joyce Chaffins, 65, and her granddaughter, 14-year-old Samantha Wood, died when a tornado struck their home. Samantha was a ninth-grader at Lawrence County High School, where she played in the band and was a member of the National Junior Honor Society.

The storm has also claimed James Gregory Brooks, 48, Donald L. Beemon, 78, and Linda Beemon, 73, of Kenton County.

In Johnson County, in Middle Fork, a tornado ripped the home of Gregory Perry, 20, right off its foundation and carried it over a 25-foot embankment into rushing creek rapids, where, according to the county coroner, the house ``just disintegrated.''

Gregory was killed, along with Sean Shepherd, a 16-year-old boy from Prestonsburg who had the misfortune of visiting Gregory at the time.

More lives taken by this destructive force of nature include Sherman DeWayne Allen, 49, Debbie Allen, 49; Wilburn Pitman, 81, Virginia Pitman, 73, and Ethel Pruitt, 64, all of Laurel County.

In Morgan County, husband and wife Charles and Betty Sue Endicott, both in their early 50s, were caring for Charles's mother, Elizabeth Endicott, 72, after her recovery from a stroke.

A tornado struck their trailer home, killing all three of them. Charles's sister, Marita Moore, surveyed the scene of destruction and said this: ``There's not even a memory left down there.''

More Kentucky families who do not deserve such a painful loss include the families of Beverly Bowman, 47, Anita Smith, 53, and Vershal Brown, 79, all of Menifee County; and Alex Clayton Dulin, 86, Emma Dean Cecil, 87, and Wilmer Cecil, 90, all of Morgan County.

In Pulaski County, 74-year-old Helen Placke was found dead in her home. She had sought shelter from the storms inside a closet--but to no avail.

In Kenton County, in the town of Falmouth, Courtney Stephenson died when her car was suddenly lifted and catapulted across six lanes of traffic on I 75. She was 42 years old.

It is sobering and humbling, to think about the many wondrous technologies and abilities we have in this great country--from the medical advances that can place tiny tools into the smallest human capillaries, to our scientific discoveries that enable us to send cameras to the outermost edges of the solar system and actually take pictures of other planets and send them back to Earth.

And yet human life is still so fragile when confronted with the powerful forces of the natural world.

I would be remiss, if I did not conclude my remarks with a note of gratitude--and that is gratitude for the many brave and heroic first responders and other Kentuckians who have rushed to the aid of those hardest hit by these storms.

Over the last week, my office has been contacted by people throughout the country asking how they can help. We have pointed them to various places in the Commonwealth where the people on the ground have coordinated incredible assistance to those in need.

Volunteers from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association, the United Way, and the business community have come together to provide food, blood, resources, and shelter to those in need. Many churches and civic organizations have taken up collection drives.

And many Kentuckians of good heart, without any prodding, have on their own simply loaded up their cars with bottled water, food, and whatever else they can spare and driven to scenes of tornado wreckage to ask, ``How can I help?''

Government has a key role to play as well. FEMA is on the case. And my friend Senator Paul and I have sent a letter to the President urging him to approve Governor Steve Beshear's request for federal assistance.

The Kentucky State Police have played a vital role in collecting water, food, clothing, and other resources, and distributing them to the communities that need them.

And as always, the Kentucky National Guard is in the foreground of disaster relief. More than 220 members of the Kentucky National Guard and Air Guard were mobilized and deployed to 10 counties after Governor Steve Beshear declared a statewide emergency.

Even in the face of such tragedy, the burden on our hearts is eased by the good will and good works of so many Kentuckians willing to serve and come to the aid of their neighbors. It makes me proud to represent the people of Kentucky in this United States Senate.

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