‘Heartbreaking’: Mayfield remembers tragedy of deadly tornado one year later

WSMV's Michael Warrick reports from Kentucky.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 7:23 PM CST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (WSMV) - One year after a deadly tornado killed dozens of people in Western Kentucky, the memories are still raw for those who lived it.

The damage was no worse than in Mayfield, where the EF-4 tornado killed more than 20 people, including nine people working at a candle factory.

U.S. Navy Veteran Adam Slack went to the candle factory after getting a text from a friend that it had collapsed. He’s credited with rescuing a woman from Paducah.

“The rubble, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Slack said. “The chaos when we got there, it was bad.”

The National Weather Service reported 4,000 buildings were either damaged or destroyed in Mayfield.

The site of the candle factory is now just a concrete slab.

“There were many people that had passed young and old. My wife and I went up and walked the memorial for a little bit and it was simply heartbreaking,” Slack said.

In the weeks and months after the tornado, Slack transformed his garage into a supply shed.

It became a one-stop-shop for victims to take what they needed: food, water, clothes, cleaning products, diapers, towels, and more.

“What is your other option? You got to come together, and we helped so many people that we didn’t know,” Slack said.  “I say hi to people in Walmart now that I don’t remember their name, but I remember putting a tarp over their roof.”

Across Mayfield, some homes and businesses are only beginning to rebuild.

Despite the devastation, Slack has seen a resilience in his community he’s proud of everyday.

It’s his hope, in the months and years to come, Mayfield will build back stronger and better than ever before.

“I learned a different level of humble and pride,” Slack said.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced earlier this year, Mayfield Consumer Products, which owned the candle factory, will expand its surviving facility Graves. It’ll employ more than 500 people over the next five years.