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Family members desperately search for loved ones after deadly tornado hits Mayfield, Kentucky


A family digs through the remains of their apartment in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021....
A family digs through the remains of their apartment in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.((AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Updated: Dec. 11, 2021 at 5:14 PM CST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (WSMV) - Family members spent the day searching for their loved ones as a strong tornado ripped through Mayfield, Kentucky.

“It’s just terrible,” Shirley Gillespie said. “I’ve just never seen anything like this.”

Gillespie was overcome with tears. The last few hours have felt like an eternity.

She drove up from Tennessee after she heard about the tornado. Once she reached Mayfield, she walked nearly two miles to her brother’s house.

The sounds coming from the neighborhood will stay with her forever.

“I heard people yelling, ‘Let me out! Get me out!’ They were trapped under the debris,” Gillespie said.

The upstairs is gone, and her family’s cars are damaged. Miraculously, they’re alive.

“Even though with all the damage, it was nine people in this house,” Gillespie said. “Not a scratch on not one of them. God put his arms around them. That’s enough for us.”

While Gillespie’s family is safe, Darryl Johnson fears for his sister, Janine Denise Johnson Williams. She was working at the Candle Factory when the tornado struck.

“He said that she called him at around 9 something, maybe 9:30,” said Hunny. “It’s storming really bad, and I think the response was like the roof had come off,” Johnson said.

Since then, Johnson has heard nothing.

“It’s been several hours...you know, I can’t tell you how long... but it’s tragic,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he’s called every hospital and is losing hope.

“She’s all I got left. I lost my brother four years ago in an unfortunate manner. And not. You know, it’s uh...it’s what I got man,” Johnson said.

The tornado destroyed parts of Mayfield, damaging homes and industries.

Downtown Mayfield received a bulk of the damage. Nearly every building was impacted by the tornado, including the courthouse.

“There are so many churches destroyed,” Mayfield native Gary Hargrove said. “All of our historical buildings are destroyed.”

Born and raised in the town, Hargrove said downtown is now unrecognizable.

“It’s just one of those things that you look at in disbelief.,” Hargrove said. “And it’s just hard to believe that mother nature can do something like this and be this powerful.”

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