After helping with cleanup and search-and-rescue operations in Kentucky, Indiana Task Force One has returned home to Indianapolis.
In the past, the team has been called in to help with hurricane relief down in the south, and even in Florida after the hotel collapse. This week, they were in Mayfield and Dawson Springs, two Kentucky towns destroyed by last Friday night’s tornadoes.
Captain Tom Neal says their first assignment in Mayfield was to help at the candle factory in town that was leveled. After two days, everyone who was inside the building when the tornado hit, was accounted for.
“The company owner not only called his employees’ families, but he did it three times to insure he had everyone accounted for,” Neal said. “It’s a great blessing that after seeing that complete destruction of that building, knowing that there were only a few fatalities, and the number could’ve been much higher than what it ended up being.”
Neal says it’s one thing for people in Indiana, and across the country, to see photos and videos of the tornado damage on TV or on social media, but it’s a completely different experience seeing it first-hand.
“We were finding structures that were thrown about, and debris that belonged to a structure that was half-a-mile or three-quarters of a mile away,” he said. “There was a John Deere dealership, and we were finding tractor parts, tractor wheels, and rims, that were just tossed about like they were small little toys. Some of them weigh several hundred pounds, and they were just catapulted down into the earth.”
Neal, and the rest of the Task Force One team, spoke with some residents who were affected by the tornadoes. One story, in particular, will stick with him forever.
“This one woman, her son was delivering pizzas. He was there at the candle factory just minutes before the tornado hit it,” Neal said. “He was driving back to the Domino’s pizza facility, and his windows were blown out of his car and the storm passed and he tried to call his mom to make sure she knew he was okay.”
Neal said most of the people who lost everything in the tornadoes were the same people still offering food and water to his team as they helped with relief efforts.