EZEL — There were tears and applause as residents gathered Wednesday to hear local officials speak about recovery efforts since Friday's devastating tornado in Morgan County
Judge-Executive Tim Conley choked back tears as he addressed about 75 people packed into the Ezel Elementary School library.
"I just want you to know, we hurt," Conley said. "And we're going to hurt together. But we're going to pull through this together."
He and others emphasized that any city-county competitiveness must surrender to cooperation and working together.
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"Right now, we have got to be a community that does not worry about who's in control and who does this or who does that," Conley said.
Lt. Sean Welch of the Kentucky State Police thanked people for their patience and understanding, particularly when West Liberty was cordoned off from residents so search-and-rescue teams could do their jobs.
"If you need baby formula, if you need a hot dog, if you need a hug, for God's sake, come out, shake our hands and talk to us," Welch said. "I live in Magoffin County, but right now I'm a Morgan County resident, and I'm not leaving and my people aren't leaving till it's over."
The meeting and another like it Wednesday afternoon in West Liberty were important to provide accurate information. Rumors have thrived without telephone and cellphone service in the storm's wake.
The crowd applauded when the lights flickered on at 12:40 p.m. Electricity has been out across much of the county since Friday.
Debborah Arnold, executive director of the Kentucky Community Crisis Response Team, said citizens with property damage should sign up for a small-business loan through FEMA even if they don't want a loan and even if they don't have a small business.
"You have to fill it out in order to get denied, in order to get help," Arnold told residents. "I know that sounds crazy, but it's the federal government, right? Why would it make sense? So when you hear these things, you've got to trust the people who will help you through this process. They're going to set up a disaster recovery center."
Arnold also warned residents to ask for credentials and identification from contractors. People should not pay cash upfront for a repair job, officials said.
Most residents interviewed at the gathering said they were confident that West Liberty and surrounding Morgan County communities would recover and return.
Morgan County Fiscal Court Magistrate Frankie Spencer emphasized repeatedly that if people work in unity, the community would resurrect itself.
"We're going to build back stronger than ever, I can guarantee you," Spencer said.