Kentucky Tornado Response

On the night of December 10 into the early morning of December 11, 2022, the central U.S. was devastated by a series of tornadoes that ripped through six states leaving a trail of damage. As soon as it was safe to do so, All Hands and Hearts deployed a Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) and had boots on the ground just three days after the tornadoes struck.

Current Activities

We have committed to a multi-stage plan to effectively support those affected by the spate of violent tornadoes which touched down across a swath of over six states in December. Within a week, we had an experienced chainsaw team at work clearing hazard and fallen trees. With homes flattened, there’s no call for the repair work we usually do after hurricanes. Instead, heavy machinery goes in to scour away the debris so that those households who have the means to do so, can rebuild. While this massive-scale debris management is going on, we are participating in coordination meetings with other nonprofits to determine how best to address the housing needs of those who can’t rebuild, as well as other unmet longer-term needs. We will look to develop a program based on the needs of the community. We are currently hiring a community liaison to further assess the long term needs in the affected community.

To assist in determining the long-term needs of affected communities, we are hiring a Community Liaison. This role will be responsible for embedding themselves in the impacted communities and to connect with organizations and community leaders. Working from within the community, we hope to develop a program focused on increasing the community’s resilience, using an inclusive and participatory approach to supporting their long-term needs.

Our Work

All Hands and Hearts deployed a Disaster Assessment Response Team (DART) as soon as it was safe to do so, with boots on the ground just three days after the tornadoes struck. DART covered as much distance as possible, with one team starting in St. Louis Missouri heading South and another heading North from Nashville Tennessee, to determine how we could provide immediate relief. The teams moved towards the hardest hit area of Mayfield and the surrounding communities of Bowling Green and Dawson Springs. From what they were able to assess, it is clear that there is a dire need for chainsaw work and heavy debris removal.

Less than a week after the devastating tornadoes touched down two skilled chainsaw teams were mobilized to Mayfield, Dawson Springs and the surrounding areas. Partnering with Team Rubicon, our teams have been working tirelessly through December providing immediate relief to the communities, where we have completed 27 sites as of January 5, 2022. Prior to the chainsaw work, the teams were supporting each homeowner through the emotional task of sifting through the debris and packing up any salvageable belongings.

Kentucky Tornado Response with Team Rubicon

Program Spotlight: Resilient Communities

Shirley lives in a rural area in the Benton, KY area, on a property – her “a little bit of heaven” – that she and her husband acquired over 20 years ago. Ten years ago Shirly lost her husband and resided on the property alone with two sons in the local area.

On the evening of December 10th, while watching news reports of an approaching storm with potential tornado cells, Shirley heard the Channel Six weatherperson make a statement that anyone living in a manufactured home on a portable frame, like hers, must evacuate and take shelter in a more durable structure. Shirley acted immediately and sheltered in her garage under a small table. Within minutes, she heard debris flying through the air, hitting the garage and then heard her residence lift off the concrete pad and crash into the surrounding property. Meanwhile, the tornado tore apart her garage, leaving no walls standing and debris collapsing all around her.

The team cultivated a close relationship with Shirley and were moved by her warmth and positivity. They describe her as “always carrying a smile and showing resilience…Instead of focusing on her loss, she was continually sharing her thanks for being alive and having people she doesn’t know come to her aid.”

Community is pivotal following the devastation of natural disasters. It’s what unites families, friends and neighbors as they work through the consequent challenges. Loss of loved ones, homes destroyed beyond repair, displacement to inadequate shelter and disruption to income are a stark reality. Yet, it’s through this turmoil that a renewed sense of community is formed. It’s our human reaction to help one another and, through this help, communities can begin their road to recovery.

Volunteer Stories

Being trained and certified chain saw operators (sawyers), volunteers Suzie Spencer, Randy Voll and Andy Hail were assigned to deploy to Shirley’s property initiating operational activities to remove trees and debris. The team worked closely with Shirley and did a significant amount of debris removal and chain saw work to clear a path to her husband’s grave which sits at the top of a hill overlooking the property.

““It was such a privilege to assist Shirley and others like her. People we’ve never met, who open their hearts and share their emotions, pain, hope and resilience to strangers. It is people like Shirley who make our experiences so very worthwhile. It’s people like Shirley who give us hope and inspiration.”- Volunteers Suzie, Randy, and Andy.

Disaster Profile

Late at night, on December 10 2021, a tornado outbreak occurred across several midwest states and devastated several areas across Kentucky. One of the tornadoes broke historical records and traveled over 200 miles across 4 states.

The “Quad state tornado” has been classified with a EF-4 rating with wind speeds of up to 200mph leaving a trail of devastation across vast areas in Kentucky especially around Mayfield, Dawson Springs, and Bowling Green. It is estimated 3,000 homes have been damaged in Kentucky alone.

Homes Damaged
Sites completed
Number of Tornadoes
Homes Damaged
Sites completed
Number of Tornadoes