Tornado damages church, rolls patrol vehicle; no injuries

Pastor speaks after tornado hits church with kids inside

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - Officials say children were in a church pre-school when a tornado ripped off a portion of the roof on Thursday morning, March 14.

Thankfully, they say 39 children and several adults got out safely and no one was injured.

According to the National Weather Service, Mt. Zion Baptist Church had much of the roof structure of the sanctuary blown off, as well as part of a second story exterior wall.

Michelle Rushing, who is the director of the church’s daycare, laughed off people calling her a hero and said she was just doing her job and trying to keep the kids safe.

After the storms passed, Mt. Zion Baptist Church became the command center for emergency personnel. This area appeared to have been the most damaged.

Dr. Wes Conner, Chief Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, says they are still calculating the total costs it will take to repair the damaged roof and replace other property.

Dozens of people helped patch up the church’s worship center which is expected to still be used this Sunday for services.

Conner says he’s grateful for the outpouring of support from the local community and beyond.

“We have had offers from the Kentucky Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Team, and they actually have a team that does tarping. We will most likely be in touch with them concerning what we might not be able to do and so all of these things are going to be happening in the next few days," said Conner.

The church is inviting volunteers to join a large clean up effort at the church tomorrow morning. It starts at 10 a.m. and a free lunch will be provided.

The Mt. Zion Baptist Church was damaged in the tornado on Thursday morning. (Source: Kelsey Anderson/KFVS)
The Mt. Zion Baptist Church was damaged in the tornado on Thursday morning. (Source: Kelsey Anderson/KFVS)

We talked to a sheriff’s deputy who said he was parked in the church parking lot when the tornado hit and flipped his car.

“At one point, I just saw the wind and all the trees started picking up. And the power lines coming out of the ground, then it just hits my car, turned it on its side and broke all the windows,” McCracken County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Wilcutt said. “Then debris just started slamming off the side of my car.”

The officer was able to get out of the car and make his way into the church.

He was not injured.

Just down the road, a grain bin blew off of its foundation and wrapped around a Cape Girardeau man’s truck on Highway 62. He made it out with just minor injuries.

Tornado damage at Mt. Zion Baptist Church In West Paducah. The tornado also wrapped a grain bin around a truck driving from Cape Girardeau. Driver had just minor injuries.

Posted by Carly O'Keefe KFVS on Thursday, March 14, 2019

The McCracken County judge executive issued a State of Emergency for McCracken County. The National Weather Service said a preliminary report showed EF2 tornado damage in western Kentucky.

Winds whipped through the area into the evening, sending debris flying across the fields and yards.

We talked to several people right after the tornado came through and they said it’s something they will never forget.

“Yeah, I’ve never been hit by Mother Nature like this, was definitely the closest call for me.”

“There’s nothing you can do, I mean, you are helpless.”

“Hopefully it doesn’t hit us and surprisingly, it went right around us.”

“It all happened so quick.”

Roofs were torn off, vehicles flipped over, windows broken, power lines down and tree uprooted. That was the scene in western McCracken County.

There are still power lines down on some roads and officials asked people to stay clear of the damaged areas until they can get things cleaned up.

Copyright 2019 KFVS. All rights reserved.