Destruction, damage and even death continued to be assessed on the morning after Saturday’s devastating tornado strike in Bowling Green as first responders and families sifted through debris, utility workers tried to restore electric and internet service, and business owners started the process of rebuilding after what Gov. Andy Beshear has called the worst tornado event in state history.
The rebuilding was most evident along the U.S. 31-W Bypass, where business owners along the stretch south of the Broadway Avenue intersection spent much of Saturday picking up the pieces and continued the laborious process Sunday.
At 1510 U.S. 31-W Bypass, Scott Henon and a couple of his employees were piling bricks ripped from the Tony Henon Construction business and removing other debris from the building.
“We’re trying to mitigate the immediate damage and then see if we can help others,” said Scott Henon. “It may be weeks before we get power back; but based on what I’ve seen around town, we consider ourselves very lucky.”
Henon’s building would probably not be included among the more than 100 local businesses that Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said were destroyed by Saturday’s storm, but he still estimated damage in the $100,000 range.
Compared to businesses like WK Liquors at 1603 U.S. 31-W Bypass and the Que Buenos Mexican restaurant at the 1633 address, Henon was lucky. Those businesses and others were leveled by the EF-3 tornado that brought winds of 150 miles per hour.
As he surveyed the destruction up and down the bypass Sunday, Scott Henon was saddened by the losses for an area of town that had been going through a renaissance.
"The biggest shame is that this area had just started rejuvenating," he said. "Some of the older buildings were under new ownership and were getting renewed."
On Sunday, the area around the Plaza shopping center at 1561 U.S. 31-W Bypass and the newly renovated Pizza Hut at 1414 U.S. 31-W Bypass was anything but rejuvenated.
The parking lot of the shopping center that is home to the Wishy Washy laundromat and the Mixed Martial Arts studio was cluttered with glass and other debris. Downed power lines and utility poles lay near an over turned truck.
The Pizza Hut takeout restaurant, which had taken over the former home of a Long John Silver's location, had broken windows, a damaged roof and a broken pole sign in the parking lot.
While the destruction was both palpable and deplorable, there were already signs of hope for the storm-ravaged businesses.
Only a day after the destruction, WK Liquors was already getting support from the community in the form of a GoFundMe internet fundraiser organized by recent Western Kentucky University graduate Natalie Kelley.
Kelley said the response has exceeded her expectations, raising more than $11,000 by Sunday afternoon.
"The initial goal was $5,000, and I didn't know if that was too much," Kelley said. "I was only expecting around $1,000, but it took off more than I ever expected."
Kelley speculated that the generous response is a result of the impact WK Liquors' owners and staff have on the community.
"I think most customers are college kids, and being so far away from home for some of us, it's important to make connections," Kelley said.
She said the WK Liquors owners "make us feel at home." She plans to meet with the owners soon and give them the money.
While such restoration efforts are under way, restoration of important electric and internet service is progressing throughout the county.
On Sunday morning, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities posted a Twitter message saying the number of customers without power had been reduced from about 24,000 right after the storm to approximately 5,800.
The tweet said the hardest-hit areas were the west side of Bowling Green, the bypass, Russellville Road, Creason Street and the Briarwood community.
"We have 80 to 100 poles to replace," the message said.
Warren Rural Electric Cooperative was also making progress in restoring power to its members. A WRECC tweet on Saturday afternoon said 11,700 members were without power. A Sunday afternoon update said that number was down to 5,800.
"We are still working around the clock, now with the assistance of several volunteer and contract crews," the tweet said.
Messages from both WRECC and BGMU, as well as from local law enforcement, emphasized the importance of staying off streets where cleanup or utility-restoration work is being done.
"Please avoid areas where emergency personnel or utility personnel are working," said a message from BGMU. "We want to keep you and our employees safe as they continue to restore power."
— The Daily News' John Reecer contributed to this article.