As soon as local officials realized Friday’s storms had for the most part missed Lexington, they began working on reaching out to help neighbors who weren’t as fortunate.
“We’re a caring and giving community, and we’re also a community with great emergency responders,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “We recognize it’s our duty to reach out and help.”
By approximately 8 p.m. Friday, Lexington had fire crews on the way to hard-hit West Liberty. Lexington sent a collapse trailer, a heavy duty rescue truck and personnel with rescue and hazardous material expertise. Their response was part of a regional effort called BERT – the Bluegrass Emergency Response Team.
Battalion Chief Gregg Bayer headed up Lexington’s support of West Liberty overnight, and Assistant Chief Rick Jordan took over that role this morning. Public Safety Commissioner Clay Mason drove to West Liberty earlier today to assess needs.
Saturday morning, Mayor Gray called Gov. Steve Beshear to offer assistance.
Officials from Building Inspection and Code Enforcement made plans to head to West Liberty on Monday. Code Enforcement Director David Jarvis and Building Inspection Director Dewey Crowe said the divisions have a Damage Assessment Team and a trailer loaded with essential equipment needed in an emergency. “We’re ready to go,” Jarvis said.
Mayor Gray said Lexington’s message to West Liberty and other devastated areas is that we care and we will help. “We know in times of adversity, the human spirit triumphs,” Gray said. “There will be a tomorrow. Getting through this will be hard for our neighbors, but Lexington is here to help, and so are all the communities and relief agencies throughout Central Kentucky.”
During the storms Friday, Gray said he operated on a philosophy of “better safe than sorry,” encouraging local businesses to send employees home early after schools dismissed students early. “Families needed to be together,” Gray said.
“We had the best technology and highly trained personnel telling us the chance for severe weather and tornadoes was unusually high for our area,” Gray said. “To our west, tornadoes and severe storms were already occurring. Predictions turned out to be accurate. The tornado that hit West Liberty could have just as easily happened here. Our thanks to meteorologists and local news organizations. Their work helped reduce the loss of lives and injuries.”
Gray said Lexington had damage, but thankfully was not hit hard. “We immediately turned to helping those who were,” he said.