UPDATE: Tornado Survivors Rebuild From Scratch

By: Randy Yohe Email
By: Randy Yohe Email

UPDATE 3/23/12 @ 5:15 p.m.
CHAPMAN, Ky (WSAZ) -- Many tornado survivors who are rebuilding their homes and lives are praising the local state and federal government they're receiving.

The Kentucky Legislature is moving on giving tax breaks for building materials, and FEMA seems to be working at full speed.

But WSAZ.com found out that all the help and healing takes root in family and community.

"We'll have a basement," Mike Jude says.

He and his wife, Michelle Jude, are surrounded by a cleaned lot and a block foundation -- three weeks after the tornado hit.

But three days after the tornado hit the Chapman community, the Judes were still telling of holding on for dear life as their home disintegrated around them.

“My son reached up and grabbed my daughter; she almost flew away," Mike said at the time. "She would have if he hadn't grabbed her."

Like most of their neighbors, the Judes are rebuilding. With no insurance, Mike says a nearly $30,000 FEMA grant and a $40,000 SBA loan should do the job.

“It truly felt like a real personal attention situation," he said. "We felt like they were truly concerned about keeping us up to date on what each part of the process was.”

Tammy Lovely, the Judes' next door neighbor, is one of many survivors still sheltered in the county's Yatesville Lake vacation cabins. Lovely says she and boyfriend Mike will put a mobile home on their cleared lot -- replacing a home that had survived several family generations.

“I can't tell you what it must feel like on his side to lose the home you grew up in -- your mom and dad's home,” Lovely said.

Mike says up on the hill, all in Chapman plan to pitch in and build a community storm shelter.

“So there's someplace that everyone can go, especially if you don't have a basement,” he said.

Kentucky lawmakers also are moving to waive 10 required school days for students dealing with the aftermath of the storm. And they're working to make sure schools in the affected counties will not lose state money due to missed tornado days.

CHAPMAN, Ky. (WSAZ) -- You hear the old cliché -- it looks like a war zone. It’s not a cliché in Chapman, a small community in Lawrence County, Ky.

In fact, one victim went to war with looters that he found coming out of his shattered home -- just hours after the tornado hit. There were the mother and baby who held on to a stump as the tornado passed; they survived.

And then there's the Jude family.

“I told her we had a storm coming," Mike Jude said. "I watched it on your channel.”

With minutes until impact, Jude was going to get his wife Michelle, 13-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter out of their Chapman area house -- that's no longer there -- and into a block outbuilding.

But Mike says he had no time for that.

“I saw limbs and branches coming toward the house, then the wall came in on top of us,” he said.

Mike only had time to get his family into the bathtub before his home disintegrated.

"That’s when I saw the top of the bathtub split open," he said. "The roof gave in, my daughter's legs rose up in the air, I was screaming. At that point, my son reached up and grabbed my daughter and pulled her down. She almost flew away; she would have if he hadn't grabbed her.”

The Judes survived, as did so many family and neighbors all around them -- with homes now destroyed and with power poles and lines down everywhere.

They survived, and will carry on.

“We do what everybody in eastern Kentucky does," Mike said. "You help your neighbors, you appreciate everyone helping you, and you thank the churches and the county. Our neighbors whose homes were destroyed came to our house to help us.”

Mike says five minutes before the tornado hit, he took lessons he just had heard from WSAZ Chief Meteorologist Tony Cavalier and fellow WSAZ Meteorologist Brandon Butcher. He gave his children a tornado drill.

Mike says if you don't take storm warnings seriously and communicate with your family, especially your children, something bad can happen.

We asked how the kids were doing, and their Mom said not too well. They will be hugged a lot for the next few days.

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