Survivors to fulfill essential roles while recovering from EF-4 tornado

Posted at 1:47 PM, Apr 03, 2020

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There’s enough stress having to figure out the next steps in your life after losing everything in a tornado. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, recovering has been far from even okay for some survivors.

Lauren and Kory Farmer are among the neighbors who survived the EF-4 tornado that killed 19 people in Putnam County, eight just in their community on Hensley Drive.

While they’re planning to rebuild and navigate around the virus, both of them are in essential positions and plan to go back to work next week. Kory is a registered nurse at Cookeville Regional Medical Center and Lauren is a physical therapist who provide home health care to many patients.

“Not only are we dealing with the tornado and pandemic but now, we have to go back to work and care for the people,” Lauren said. “We love to do it and that’s why we do it but it’s just so much.”

The couple says they’re ready to return but Kory admitted he had concerns even before outbreak if he might get triggered by the alarms and sounds from the hospital, especially now that recent state data showed more than 30 people have the virus.

Meanwhile, Lauren is making sure she has proper personal protective equipment when entering homes. They’ve been going through counseling to deal with the tragedy the early morning hours of March 3.

“The sound of your house snapping and crumbling around you, I’ll never forget,” Lauren told NewsChannel 5.

The two began to help their neighbors as soon as they heard a “dead silence and then screams.” Being a nurse, Kory immediately triage the scene.

They described how members of their church showed up to help even before emergency personnel arrived. Putnam County would see an outpouring of support from community members and strangers helping clean up the next few days. So much so that county officials had to ask them to hold off to let electric crews have space to restore power.

While the recovery efforts continue daily, COVID-19 slowed operations down. Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said debris cleanup is only 50 percent complete. There were 6,000 volunteers with roughly 60,000 hours in the past month.

Returning to some type of normalcy hasn’t been easy now that social distancing and a stay at home order have been mandated.

“For everyone else who has a home, they get what’s essential and non essential but for us, it’s all essential,” Lauren said.