The worst damage from the violent March 1 tornadoes – the most powerful storms to hit Kentucky in nearly a quarter century—was centered in the Appalachian foothills in the eastern part of the state. AmeriCares focused its response on communities in this impoverished region, dispatching relief workers and delivering water, medical aid, hygiene supplies, nutritional supplements, and cleaning supplies to help thousands of survivors.
“Although the U.S. has a highly developed disaster response system, some isolated Kentucky communities—in Morgan, Johnson, Lauren, Magoffin, and Menifee counties—were in desperate need of assistance,” said Garrett Ingoglia, emergency response director at AmeriCares.
AmeriCares responded immediately, coordinating aid deliveries to the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), and the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management:
- 128,000 bottles of water: filling a crucial gap in these counties where survivors had no access to clean drinking water.
- Relief items: including first aid supplies, hygiene items for the displaced survivors, nutritional supplements, and other consumables.
- Six pallets of baby diapers, in response to an urgent request by CAP.
“What AmeriCares has done is just fantastic,” said Sherrey Buresh, Assistant Director of Disaster Relief for CAP. “These supplies are a tremendous help for people who have so much need. There is no water in the county—without bottled water coming in, people would die.”
AmeriCares relief experts Alex Ostasiewicz and Michelle Jackson traveled to Johnson and Magoffin counties in eastern, KY on March 13 to help distribute the aid. “The devastation was random and intense,” said Ostasiewicz. “While some areas were untouched, others were completely demolished – shredded sheet metal, insulation, and crunched up homes. Many people lost everything.”
While survivors left picking up the pieces face many challenges, some have been coping with the trauma by helping their neighbors and putting things into perspective. “The only way I can describe it is a nightmare,” said Elizabeth Kingsboro, who is wheelchair-bound after suffering a spinal injury during the tornado. “But I’m glad I’m alive.”
AmeriCares has a long history of helping survivors of U.S. disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and most recently, a series of 2011 disasters including tornadoes, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. In response, AmeriCares delivered nearly $3 million in aid, along with more than $600,000 in disaster recovery grants, benefitting 62,000 people and helping hard-hit communities recover and prepare for future emergencies.