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A green plastic coat hanger lay casually in the middle of Barley Circle in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 3.
Bright pink drinking cups sat side by side on a dish drainer inside a first-floor apartment. A heavy stainless steel refrigerator hulked out of place in the middle of the kitchen, it’s cord dangling into space, while in the next room a baby’s bed, with the sheets and blankets still inside lay on its side teetering from the front of the building, which was no longer there.
Yellow and white insulation stuck like snow to vehicles, bushes and the sides of buildings.
That’s the scene Carla Wiltsie returned to following a tornado, which ripped through her Harvester’s neighborhood the previous afternoon.
Wiltsie’s husband, two children and babysitter, scrambled into a neighbor’s basement apartment, seconds before the front of their building was ripped off by the violent storm.
Wiltsie was less than a mile away working at the Dollar General on Violet Road when she got the call.
"I got a call at work that my house was gone and I came home," Wiltsie said.
Ellen Heile, Wiltsie’s landlord, embraced her tenant.
Tears streamed down both their faces as they clung to each other.
Heile wrote a check to help the Wiltsie family so they could find temporary housing.
"You couldn’t ask for a better landlord," Wiltsie said.
Meanwhile, Heile’s husband, Tom, and her son, Doug Drysdale, were busy measuring plywood to cover windows on a second apartment building they own that received heavy damage.
"I’m lucky all my tenants are accounted for," Tom said. "It looks like a war zone and I don’t know exactly what that looks like."
Heile said he could hardly believe his eyes when he was able to view the damage.
"When you hear about those deaths, it could have been much worse," he said.
Four people died in the Crittenden/Piner area following the outbreak of tornadoes that spanned three states in a two-hour period on March 2.
Those dead include:
• James "Red" Brooks, 48, of Dry Ridge, died when his dump truck was knocked 100 yards off Dixie Highway. Brooks was known as an animal lover. For obituary information, see page 7 of this issue.
• Daniel Beemon, 78, and his wife, Linda Beemon, 73, both of Piner.
• Courtney Stephenson, 42, of Falmouth, died when her vehicle was thrown off I-75 near Crittenden.
The devastation was worse in southern Kenton County, just across the Grant County line where several homes were leveled.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio said the tornado that began in Crittenden around 4:30 p.m. on March 2 was an EF3 tornado with wind speeds as high as 160 miles per hour.
Based on the damage – roofs being blown off, outer walls of buildings collapsing but inner walls left intact - the NWS said the wind speeds in Crittenden were around 135 miles per hour.
The storm continued on an east-northeast path into southern Kenton County where wind speeds reached 160 miles per hour.
In other parts of Kentucky, a total of 15 storm deaths were reported, including five in Morgan County, two deaths in Lawrence County, four in Laurel County and two in Johnson and Menifee counties.
Logan Murphy, a Williamstown resident, was one of hundreds of volunteers who filled the Harvester’s neighborhood over the weekend trying to restore normalcy for people he’d never met.
He said about eight members of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church decided to lend a hand.
"I loaded up some tools and showed up because it was better than sitting by the phone," Murphy said.
Tears filled his eyes as he worked, using his chainsaw to cut trees knocked over by the tornado. Murphy’s cousin, Beverly Bowman, was one of the victims in Menifee County. Beverly’s home was completely destroyed. Her husband remains in critical condition in Lexington, while her daughter underwent surgery on March 6 for her injuries.
"I’d rather be here, at least helping, do something positive, than sitting at home doing nothing," he said.