March 2, 2012 is a day many people in this part of the world will never forget. I can never, ever, remember a time in my life where weather events had me so on edge and concerned. I was under a tornado warning at four separate times during that day. We spent much of that day at school with our students in the hallways, hoping and praying that the weather would let up, and there would be no tornado.
Later that night, I came home and as I turned on the news I realized, we were just getting started. A tornado outbreak was headed toward Eastern Kentucky. I went to mom and dads house as they issued yet another tornado warning. In the middle of this storm, I looked out their back door and saw a rumble of lightening and the thundering of wind going down the valley on the Virginia side of the mountain. I later found out that a tornado had hit the Rose Hill and Ewing area of Lee County.
As the tornado warnings expired and it looked like the rough weather was over, I went home. When I got home I couldnt believe the images that were displayed on my screen of a tornado that had hit West Liberty. West Liberty isnt terribly close to me, about 110 miles, but its the kind of place that feels like your neighbors. Youve saw stories on the local news about West Liberty and Morgan County all your life. You know their High School mascot, you know what roads lead to West Liberty. I felt connected to this town for some reason.
I went up in the following days to deliver water to the area, of course you couldnt make it all the way in to town as the national guard had streets closed off and roads closed.
Later that year in September I was out driving around and decided to drive up to West Liberty and document the progress being made toward clean up and hopefully being on the road to rebuilding.
The above photo, naturally isn’t my own work, as I do not own a helicopter. You can see the magnitude of damage to the town in this photo.
In this photo you see the damage to the Morgan County courthouse, which was at first deemed a total loss. Luckily, as you will see in my pictures later, that was not the case.
This is probably the saddest picture of them all. The nearly century old West Liberty United Methodist Church after the tornado.
The following pictures are my own, these are pictures that I took on September 9th, 2012.
In this picture you see the boarded up Morgan County Courthouse, which was built in 1907. This structure, along with the Judicial Center, which was under construction at the time of the tornado was at first called a total loss immediately following the tornado.
The Morgan County Judicial Center which was about 60% complete in this construction when the tornado hit.
Another shot of the Judicial Center
Flash forward to a cold morning in early February of 2015 and you can tell many strides have been made and progress can be seen from every angle.
The United Methodist Church is back, and just as beautiful as ever.
The 108 year old courthouse has been repaired and is in tip top shape.
The citizens finally got that new Judicial Center finished and it is serving the people of Morgan County.
The streets are busy with construction, and the people arent finished rebuilding yet.
During the tornado this Family Dollar store, which was originally located in a large, block building was completely destroyed, it has recently reopened, along with an all new Dairy Queen.
There are still signs of the destruction, as you can see in the picture above, vacant lots, leveled foundations and trees missing.