HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. (WTVF) — Downtown Hopkinsville saw the worst of the damage, when strong storms moved through the area Saturday morning. Christian County EMA tells NewsChannel 5, so far, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported. "It’s just amazing how it can happen in an instant. An absolute instant," said Mary-Anne Gilbert-Smitherman, the owner of Hopkinsville's Family Dollar Store.
In the amount of time it took to run a simple errand, Mary-Anne went from owning a store to a pile of debris. "Came back, saw some emergency response vehicles and then saw all of this," she said.
But fretting about the damage could wait. First, she was worried about her employee, who rode out the storm from inside the store. "She just said she saw all that debris from over across the street coming her way - these big windows - she said -- oh I’ve got to get to the back. And thank goodness, thank goodness she did," said Gilbert-Smitherman.
Where the employee was standing at the cash register, is now under a pile of broken glass and items off the shelves. "Thank goodness she went to the back because it was all pushed back there. That was the safest place right there," she said.
Gilbert-Smitherman is among several Hopkinsville store owners that must pick up the pieces. Across from her on Ninth Street, the AutoZone put up plywood boards to cover up the broken glass. At Virginia Park, the debris was so profound, firefighters didn't know where to start picking up. All the debris came from a toppled Marathon gas station, at the corner of Ninth and Campbell.
It took an army of volunteers and first responders to position what was left of Marathon's roof. Then a front end loader and a Bobcat, slowly but surely, drunk the roof out of the middle of the road.
It will take that same, collective spirit to rebuild the Family Dollar. While that will take a lot more time than the storm tore it down, Gilbert-Smitherman plans to rebuild back as soon as possible.
"This is a great place, we’ve really enjoyed getting to know people, nice nice people here," she said.