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A Kentucky family is left homeless for the second time by a tornado that hit the same location

BARNSLEY, Ky. (AP) — Devin Johnson’s life was uprooted for a second time when a tornado flattened his home over Memorial Day weekend — on the same Kentucky property where another twister left him homeless in 2021.

Johnson, 21, watched Tuesday as workers used chainsaws to cut into the wreckage of the trailer he called home with his grandparents and girlfriend. It was an all too familiar scene for his family.

Their previous home in the small western Kentucky community of Barnsley was destroyed by another tornado during a terrifying night of storms in December 2021 that killed 81 people in the Bluegrass State.

“We never thought this would happen again,” Johnson said.

Amid all the uncertainty as they start over, there’s one thing they’ve decided, he said.

“The only thing we know for sure is we’re not going back here,” Johnson said. “There will be so many memories of us losing everything.”

Barnsley was hit by a powerful tornado on Sunday that produced winds of up to 166 miles per hour and tore a path of destruction across nearly 36 miles of Kentucky, the National Weather Service said.

The region was hit by several severe storms and damage survey teams were assessing the destruction to determine how many tornadoes had touched down. Another powerful storm Sunday narrowly missed the town of Mayfield, where a difficult recovery continues from a tornado that struck the town in 2021.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency due to Sunday’s storms and reported five deaths statewide. The governor toured storm-affected areas of Western Kentucky on Monday.

In Barnsley, the tornado tore through part of the storm-weary community. A house next to Johnson’s trailer was razed, another was knocked off its foundation and the roof of another house was ripped off.

Johnson’s family fled before the tornado hit, taking refuge with a relative in nearby Madisonville. When they looked at the weather warnings as the storm barreled towards Barnsley, they had a sinking feeling, he said.

“We all felt like we had lost everything again,” he said.

As he drove home later, emergency vehicles sped past him. As he turned the corner into his neighborhood, “there was just nothing” as he approached his family’s lot.

In 2021, Johnson’s family rode out the storm in their trailer. With no basement, Johnson hunkered down in the kitchen and clung desperately to a table with his grandparents, his sister and her boyfriend. His aunt and uncle put a mattress over them in the hallway.

“You started hearing a roar and then the whole house started shaking,” he remembers. “The power started flickering and the windows broke. And then all of a sudden you feel the wind and the pressure and this roar rushing through the house and it starts pulling at you and dragging you out.”

They all came out unscathed, but the trailer was destroyed. From the wreckage, they recovered a number of belongings, including a beloved statue of Jesus and Mary that his grandmother had owned for decades, Johnson said. They recovered some family memories, including photos.

Johnson’s family furnished their new trailer in phases once they scraped together enough money, he said. But after the latest dispute, the family’s home and belongings were scattered across the neighborhood.

“This time everything we have is gone,” he said.

Later that day, they found an engagement ring that belonged to his girlfriend’s grandmother.

“It’s very meaningful to her because it’s the last memory she has of her grandmother,” he said.

His family was insured both times when disaster struck. But their situation is just as dire as the first time.

“Right now we don’t have any money,” Johnson said. “So we’re just trying to figure out how to move forward.”

He is staying at a motel in Madisonville, where relatives are helping with costs.

The plan is to move to Madisonville. He and his girlfriend have been stashing away money since the 2021 storm in hopes of getting a home of their own, but for now they will likely live with his grandparents, he said. Johnson has a warehouse job in Madisonville and his girlfriend works at a local factory.

“It’s been so tight since then with all the bills we’ve had to go through,” he said.

Now that he has seen the sheer power of tornadoes, he longs for a house with a basement.

“We know the power they are capable of and how easily they can take your life,” he said.

___

Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky.

Haley found her grandmother’s engagement ring in the rubble. It is very meaningful to her because it is the last memory she has of her grandmother.” It was passed down to her after her grandmother passed away.

This time they may have lost everything.

The trailer was broken into pieces, which were thrown into a neighbor’s yard across the street by the storm. Other houses in the area were also razed to the ground. Chainsaws go. workers collecting debris.

Workers used chainsaws to cut the remains of Johnson’s home into smaller pieces that then had to be removed. Johnson watched.

other structures nearby were flattened.

He lived with his grandparents in ’21.

I found an entertainment center.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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