Situation Report: Tornado Response in Kentucky and Surrounding States

December 14, 2021

Appeal Code: 628P


Devastating tornadoes ripped through Kentucky and other states in the U.S. midwest and south this weekend. As of yesterday, the death toll stood at 74 in Kentucky with more than 100 people still missing. Six people were killed in Illinois when an Amazon distribution center collapsed. The Washington Post reports that 25,000 people in southwestern Kentucky remained without power on Monday. FEMA has categorized the tornadoes as a “mega event,” and the total economic impact of the tornadoes is estimated at $18 billion.

The relief effort is still in its early stages, with organizations including CWS working on assessing and coordinating logistics. CWS has refugee resettlement affiliate offices in Covington, Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky. We are glad to report that all staff and clients are safe, although some clients were impacted. We do not anticipate that the tornadoes will cause a disruption in our resettlement work.

CWS Response

CWS KITS AND BLANKETS. CWS stands ready to continue to ship CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets, Hygiene Kits, Blankets and School Kits to affected areas in response to requests from organizations on the ground. We are connecting with networks of responding organizations, including the Kentucky VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), American Red Cross and other affiliates, to get the word out that we have supplies ready for rapid deployment. One response is currently in progress in coordination with a local congregation in Bowling Green to provide hygiene kits and fleece blankets for about 15 families that are being placed in temporary housing. This collaboration will also deliver school supplies for displaced children in their area. These items will be shipped out today, and we anticipate more requests in the weeks ahead.

UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN. Mayfield and Bowling Green, Kentucky, are among the hardest hit areas following the tornadoes. CWS has initiated emergency programming to serve unaccompanied children waiting to receive Post Release Services in these cities. Unaccompanied Children enter the United States without their parents and are released from government custody to a relative. Unaccompanied Children have experienced significant trauma and are fleeing harmful situations in their home countries. In addition to past trauma that forced them from their homes, these Unaccompanied Children have now faced a devastating natural disaster. They have limited access or eligibility for most disaster relief and are especially vulnerable.

Countering this trauma and helping children regain a sense of security and hope is fundamental. A total of 24 of these children live in Mayfield and Bowling Green. Learn more about the process and what case management looks like here. Because they were unaccompanied when they arrived, with pending immigration status, these children are ineligible for government assistance following the tornadoes. Their needs were on par with those of every other child affected by the tornadoes, but their ability to access assistance is severely limited. Our program is expediting support and resources to these children.

OTHER PIECES. Our team is in conversation with partners in the Kentucky VOAD and other relevant networks to determine other unmet needs in the wake of the tornadoes. We are also prepared to coordinate the ecumenical community’s responses in the coming weeks and months. Further updates will be provided as plans become more concrete.

How to Help

Donations can be made online or sent to Church World Service (P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515). Please designate your gifts to 2021 Tornado Response.

Explore to learn about assembling and shipping CWS Kits to stock our shelves so that we can respond when the call comes following this or a similar disaster in the future.