Magoffin County: Healing & coming back stronger after devastating 2012 tornado

Published: Mar. 2, 2017 at 9:00 PM EST
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"Thank you, Lord, for this food and for letting us all gather here again."

Family dinner is something that many people have less and less time for in this day and age. But the Howard family makes sure they get together at least one night per week to eat and laugh together.

That weekly meeting became a higher priority after the March 2nd tornado outbreak. That night several members of this family were only feet away from severe injury or even death.

"I am sitting on the edge of the bathtub, my hand was actually laying on a sink on a vanity, and I felt it," said Tanika McFarlan.

"The sound is nowhere near close to a freight train. It sounded like a jet engine on steroids," Jarrod Howard recounted.

The Howard's live just off of the Mountain Parkway in Salyersville, near Restaurant Row. The tornado destroyed their house that night, while they were in huddled in an interior bathroom.

"The vanity was close enough to my feet that when I slid down the door, I could brace it with my feet against the vanity and it kept the door from blowing open," Carol Jean Howard recalled

"And I do thank the Lord that my mother-in-law came because I probably wouldn't have gone to that room. She saved me, and if they hadn't come I would have probably been out there where it took place," Jessica Howard said.

Amidst the praying in that bathroom on that night, Jarrod's sister, Tanika was singing. Tanika says she sang so the children in the room might not ever remember that awful sound.

"The song that I sang was, 'I just want to thank you, Lord.' In a moment like that, you don't know what to do, and it just came out of my mouth," Tanika said.

And once they had the all clear...

"Then we opened the door. We opened the door to nothing. When we opened the door, it was absolutely nothing."

The Howard's rebuilt their house in the same spot.

Leaders in Magoffin County say that their home is better than ever following the March 2nd tornado outbreak. Mayor Pete Shepherd says it was the people of Magoffin County that made change happen.

"The way we had help from all across Kentucky, and the United States came in and helped us," Mayor Shepherd said. "But it was the ones right here in Magoffin County that did the major part of the work and came back, never complained. They just rolled up their sleeves and done a great job of getting Salyersville and Magoffin County back to normal."

An area along the Mountain Parkway in Salyersville known as 'Restaurant Row' received the most damage from the tornado, but you wouldn't know that by looking at it five years later.

"I would say about our county that we took the disaster that was given to us and we used that to make improvements in our community. We are a safer community. We have sirens for storms and disasters in the future. We have economic development that's going on," Mayor Shepherd said. "And a lot of that goes back to us deciding that day that the tornado came through that we are going to make Salyersville and Magoffin County not only as good as it was but even better."

The county received a federal grant to get a storm siren, and they soon hope to have them installed across the county. The city has purchased two storm shelters.