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'It dropped me to my knees': Dawson Springs residents try to process tornado's devastation

Dawson Springs tornado
Posted at 9:35 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 21:35:28-05

A concrete slab is all that is left of one western Kentucky woman's mobile home. Personal items — many from other homes in the area — are thrown across the yard.

Sheila Morris said she is thanking God she decided to seek shelter at a church the night a tornado came through Dawson Springs.

"You could feel it, you could hear, it but you could never see it at the church," Morris said.

When she got back into town, she saw it: "total destruction."

Surrounding homes were picked up, tossed and destroyed. Many of the people inside — her neighbors who stayed — died.

"Ernie here on the other side did not make it," Morris said. "I know Carl on this side did not make it, I know the Bruces back behind me did not make it."

Morris said the situation was difficult to grasp, more than a dozen people have been confirmed dead in her county.

"I don't even try to [process it]," Morris said. "It dropped me to my knees and I prayed, and that's how I process that — one day at a time."

With more than 100 Kentuckians still missing, Ohio Task Force 1 is helping search for victims.

"So far we have not made any identification during our recoveries, but we have been able to provide a lot of people peace of mind that it's been done, it's been checked thoroughly and there is no one there," task force leader Jim O'Connor said. "Locating the victims is going to be the short part. The recovery here, because the amount of damage, is going to be very much a long-term problem."

The recovery is starting, but the images that remain are a reminder to Morris and fellow Dawson Springs resident Cody Brothers to always trust their gut.

"Most of the time, we stayed there and rode it out," Brothers said. "Something tells me we needed to go."

Brothers and his family left, returning to a destroyed home.

"You can replace most things," Shea Brothers said. "You lose some things — pictures and stuff, baby items and just stuff you would've liked to keep on to. At least we're alive, at least we left because we normally would've just sat there."

While Morris left Friday night, her dog stayed behind. The pup survived, sitting on its dog bed amid the rubble.

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