Former Lynchburg couple living near Mayfield share their December 10 tornado experience

Ken took this photo on Saturday morning in Benton. It’s located about six or seven miles from the McBrooms home. “This is the path the tornado took that destroyed Tammy’s co-worker’s lake house,” Ken said.

Ken and Tammy McBroom are a few hours into a Christmas Party when they get tornado warnings on their phones for the second time.

“The first tornado warnings were set to expire about 15 minutes after we arrived,” explains Ken. “We were standing on a back porch watching the wind with friends. I don’t think any of us realized how serious it was until after.”

Ken and Tammy McBroom grew up in Lynchburg and graduated from MCHS in 1987. They now live in Benton, Kentucky — just a short drive from Mayfield, the town flattened by the December 10 tornado. (Photo Provided)

The couple grew up in Lynchburg and graduated from Moore County High School in 1987. The high school friends reconnected in the winter of 2001 and married in 2006. Tammy works as a clinical nurse for a hospice provider. Ken — a former aircraft mechanic — publishes his own hunting and fishing lifestyles publication called Rambling Angler. He’s also an outdoor columnist for Kentucky Living Magazine. Together they live in Benton just 18 short miles from Mayfield –– the town flattened by the December 10 tornado.

On Friday night, as they stand on the back porch watching the weather, one partygoer, a co-worker of Tammy’s, talked excitedly about her recently completed lake house. By the time the party ended, it was no longer standing.

During the Christmas party, the McBrooms listened as one of Tammy’s co-worker excitedly talked about finally finishing their families lake house. The tornado reduced it to this pile of rubble. (Photo Provided)

Ken says the mood at the party went from festive to serious once everyone realized what was happening. As people began to get multiple emergency alert texts on their phones, things changed. Most folks gathered at the center of the 103 year old farmhouse bracing for whatever came next.

“Some folks were crying others were trying desperately to reach family members in Mayfield,” says Ken.

A town a lot like Lynchburg

The McBrooms say Mayfield is a town a lot like Lynchburg. It’s a charming, southern hamlet with a small population that’s been around since the 1800s. There’s a historic district boasting a square with a bright red brick courthouse in the center. It’s been a railroad town, the site of clothing manufactures and loose leaf tobacco producers, but today, boasts a candle factory as its main industry.

According to multiple sources, over 100 people worked overtime inside the factory the night of the tornado trying to keep up with holiday demand. Only 40 employees have been recovered so far. There hasn’t been a live rescue there since 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

“The power will be out for awhile here in Benton,” Ken says. “There are power lines down everywhere but even longer in Mayfield, I fear. They are still in search and rescue mode.”

It got closer than they realized

The McBrooms say they drove home from the party that night rather than hunker down because they have a seven week old puppy named Merle.

“We just got him this week and we knew he was probably scared to death,” says Tammy.

Luckily, another friend from the party lives nearby.

“She left before we did and it took her over two hours to go 15 miles. She called us once she got home and told us the easiest route to get back,” Ken says.

The McBrooms say it wasn’t until the sun rose on Saturday morning that they realized just how close the tornado actually got to their home. As they drove, they realized parts of it hit less than a mile away.

“I couldn’t believe how close it got,” Ken says. “That kind of changed my mood. It made a clear path just right down the road. It started flipping cars and yanking down power lines on its way to the lake.”

Luckily, the McBrooms home did not sustain any significant damage.

Life changed dramatically in the past 36 hours

On Sunday, when The Times interviewed the McBrooms the temperatures had nosedived from nearly 80 on Friday before the tornado to below freezing overnight. Ken, Tammy, and puppy Merle were huddled in one room of their house trying to stay warm. They can hear helicopters flying overhead from Benton to Mayfield at regular intervals as officials assess the damage.

Ken and Tammy says the way forward seems daunting right now for their Mayfield friends. As a hospice provider, tornado or not, Tammy traveled to multiple homes in Mayfield and Benton on Saturday trying to make sure all her patients have what they need. With no electric, no water, and no access to their local pharmacy, she’s having to transfer many of her patients back to area hospitals.

“The tornado hit the Mayfield Nursing Home,” Tammy says. “So local physicians are having to find beds for those patient too. Luckily, there were no fatalities at the nursing home. It could have been a lot worse.”

Ken says all anyone can talk about online is how to help. In 2018, a school shooting happened at Marshall County High School killing two and injuring 14. The McBrooms say the small towns are pulling together now much like they did then.

If you’d like to help, two local efforts seem to be leading the way. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshears set up the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund. The local animal shelter is also stretched thin trying to recover, house, and find owners for dozens of displaced pets. You can donate directly to them by clicking here.

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned newspaper in Lynchburg and also the only woman-owned newspaper in Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}