As Kentucky reels from a string of vicious tornadoes that tore through the state, one resident has begun hosting 26 people from five different families in her home as they process the tragedy.
Reina Guerra Perez, of Mayfield, Kentucky, had twelve people sheltering in her basement during the storm. It was like nothing she had ever witnessed, she tells reporters from NBC News.
But the twelve people she sheltered that night is nothing compared to the throng that she has living in her home now. She took it upon herself to provide shelter for the families after two of their houses were destroyed by the tornadoes. And she takes it all in stride.
The families are all friends with each other and Perez, and while only two have lost their homes to the storm, the rest are staying together with Perez to offer support to each other and to share what warmth they can during the nights.
Perez — who still does not have water, electricity, or gas herself — has been using her outdoor grill to cook meals for the families, including making coffee.
“Some of the people are out helping (in the disaster sites) but they’re all back by afternoon.” she explains. “We’re cooking out back, using wood from fallen trees and keeping warm as best we can.”
Her story is just one of the many coming out of Mayfield, a town where most people know each other and everyone looks out for one another, especially at this time of year, with Christmas right around the corner.
Jail Officer Who Helped Rescue Others Dies in Kentucky
Robert Daniel, a veteran corrections officer at the Graves County, Kentucky, Jail, was found dead on Monday after helping guide people to safety during the tornadoes that hit the area during the early morning of Saturday.
Daniel was overseeing seven inmates working at a candle factory in Kentucky when an alarm warned of an approaching tornado. Daniel swiftly helped the inmates and other workers to a safe room built for such emergency situations. Daniel then returned to the factory floor to help find others who needed help.
“The tornado hit. They turned around and he was gone,” said Pete Jackson, chief deputy at the Graves County Jail. “He put his life in danger to help others. There is no other way to put it,” he added.
At least 74 people have been confirmed dead in Kentucky alone, with at least 90 dead across the country. Kentucky was struck especially hard by the storm, falling prey to four separate tornadoes that tore through the state — one of them razing a path 223 miles long, the longest path of any tornado ever recorded.
Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear told reporters on Monday that “Thousands of homes are damaged if not entirely destroyed.
“It may be weeks before we have final counts on both deaths and levels of destruction. You stand in the middle of Mayfield or Dawson, where two-thirds of the town are gone, or in that town in Muhlenberg County, and it’s almost crushing how it feels.”
Tornadoes tear across the United States
The tornadoes were the product of a weather system that caused severe weather across the country, including heavy snowfall throughout the Midwest and western Great Lakes.
President Joe Biden made a speech from Delaware on Saturday afternoon pledging his support for the states that had been impacted by the storm, saying that his administration would “do everything it can possibly do to help.” Biden also said that he had approved Beshear’s emergency declaration for Kentucky and that he plans to travel there once his presence was “not going to get in the way of the rescue and recovery.”