INDEX — Three days after a tornado destroyed her home in downtown West Liberty, Deborah Dulen is safe, warm, fed and fed up.
"We feel so in the dark, they won't tell us anything," Dulen said as she ate lunch in the cafeteria of Morgan Central Elementary School, now known as Morgan County's main shelter. "Every day, it's the same story: 'We don't know when you'll get home.'"
Repairs are starting at the main scenes of the devastation. But these are basic — electricity and phone service — and can't address many questions of people like Dulen, who wants to know when she can go back to her house and see what's left.
Her anxiety is particularly severe because she left her four elderly Chihuahuas locked in the house, thinking she would be gone only a day.
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"We still have no phone service, no Internet, and nobody can answer any of our questions," Dulen said.
Relief workers had plenty of questions of their own, as they coped with boxes of food, diapers and clothes that came in and out of the shelter on Monday.
Sarah Terry of the Red Cross said 63 people slept at the shelter Sunday night, but hundreds more came through looking for basic supplies or a hot meal. The cafeteria at Morgan Central served 2,000 meals on Sunday.
Volunteers would come and go, filling trucks with cases of bottled water and cleaning supplies, pelting the Red Cross personnel with questions about volunteering or more supplies.
Cots stood in neat lines in the gym, some of them filled with toddlers sleeping off three days of fear and uncertainty. More supplies lined the bleachers. The library turned into a clothing depot.
Terry said the shelter could house as many as 200 people, although many storm victims are staying with relatives and relying on the shelter for supplies.
"We will be open as long as people have a need," she said.
Meanwhile, in the center of the devastation in West Liberty, the smell of generator fuel filled the frosty air, as workers raised telephone poles and restrung them, trying to restore basic necessities before allowing people back into the brick, metal and glass-strewn center of town.
Several inches of snow created puddles, but roads were clear around West Liberty.
Trooper Endre Samu, a public information officer for Kentucky State Police, said residents have not been allowed back yet because so many buildings are unstable, and authorities don't want people going through them yet.
Bank officials and courthouse workers were allowed into the area Monday to secure money and records. Several banks were destroyed, and the old courthouse lost its roof and windows. An unfinished new courthouse also suffered severe damage.
"We want the community to feel secure that banking and courthouse documents are safe," Samu said.
The Morgan County Appalachian Regional Hospital, although damaged, was back open, and nurses from around the region were going out to check on people who are at home.
Roughly 3,600 houses have been checked, and everyone is accounted for, Samu said.
County Judge-Executive Tim Connolly declined to speak with a Herald-Leader reporter; local police accompanying him referred all questions to Kentucky State Police.
Mayor Jim Rupe said county and city officials were meeting to start hiring sub-contractors to haul away debris.
"We have just got to get these streets cleared before we can let people back in," he said.
Morgan County Magistrate Jon Brown lives east of downtown, but he spent the terrifying minutes of the tornado huddled by a pool table at Donnie McKenzie's, a local restaurant that is now a pile of bricks and soda machines. He and the six others there made it out with hardly a scratch, he said.
"I saw my first tornado live, and I could care less if I see another one," Brown said.
Teresa Eldridge said she can't stop seeing and hearing the black funnel as it swirled debris towards her house. She has been at the Red Cross shelter for two nights and she still can't sleep, much less plan the next steps of her life.
"We put the children in the bathtub, and I thought they were going to die," she said, recalling the moments the tornado roared over them "I thought we would all die."