December Tornadoes: When your neighborhood is ground zero for a tornado.
After an immediate deployment in December, SBP’s team deployed again in January to tornado-impacted regions to provide recovery navigation training and develop a plan to support long-term recovery by collecting data to better understand resource gaps.
Moss Meadows is a diverse Bowling Green neighborhood. It’s where many of the refugees that come through the International Center of Kentucky, a refugee resettlement agency, own or rent their homes. Neighbors who grew up on opposite sides of the globe share meals and playdates, resources and information.
Moss Meadows is also where the tornado hit the hardest in Bowling Green. Of the 15 people who died, 13 were from this neighborhood, 11 on one street alone.
Carmela Chacon and her husband Conceptcion Serrano, both originally from El Salvador, live in Moss Meadows. On the night of the tornadoes, she remembers waking to the feeling of little rocks falling on her face. She moved toward her bedroom door, there was a terrible noise and then her bedroom wall collapsed. Her husband, who survived the storm inside the laundry room, was bruised but okay, too. But outside, she could hear the screams of her neighbors.
She started following the cries for help. Their neighbor’s home, a family from Bosnia, had been lifted from its foundation and deposited in the backyard. Together, the mother, daughter and Carmela went to another neighbor’s home to check on others. Everyone was soaked from the rainstorm that followed the tornado, and trying to find and aid neighbors in the darkness. It was something Carmela will never forget.
The neighborhood is now scattered throughout the city — those whose homes were totally demolished have moved from the emergency shelter into hotels or rentals. Those who can still live in their homes are trying to. They show up to our survivor disaster recovery trainings and take notes to share with their neighbors. They take food to others recently home from the hospital.
SBP is actively working with Bowling Green’s Neighborhood and Community Services Division, which provides support services to the refugee community. As we’ve seen over the past 16 years, the road to recovery after disaster can be complex and full of barriers, pushing vulnerable survivors closer each day to reaching their breaking point. With a deep commitment to promoting social equity in the wake of disasters, SBP will continue to support the long-term recovery of tornado-impacted families in Bowling Green.