Christmas party may have saved Kentucky couple from tornado

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MAYFIELD, Ky. (NewsNation Now) — A husband and wife say they’re lucky they were not in their now-destroyed home Friday night. They fear they wouldn’t have been able to escape the tornado that ruined their neighborhood and left more than a dozen people dead.

Stephanie and Robert Matheny of Mayfield, Kentucky, said they went to a Christmas party Friday night and credit that decision with saving their lives.

“If I did not go that Christmas party, I would not be here, because my living room is on my car, and that’s where I would have been,” Stephanie Matheny told NewsNation. She said she is still missing one of her four pets.

As she and her husband toured the devastation that night, they heard a voice yelling “any available people, we need you now.” They realized it was their neighbors, who were seriously hurt.

The couple were both taken to a hospital. The man has been released from the hospital but the woman, who was pregnant, needed an emergency cesarean section and is still hospitalized.

Steven Elder, the director of the Mayfield Community Foundation, said he knew the storms were nothing ordinary when he had trouble closing his front door.

His sister-in-law and niece were just coming off a shift at a restaurant when word came that the tornado was heading their way. They came to Elder’s house to shelter in his basement. When they came through the front door, he nearly couldn’t shut it.

His house was ultimately spared, but he said he didn’t have electricity Monday, and many of his neighbors have it far worse.

“It’s absolutely devastating what this thing did,” he said.

Several rescue groups and charities have moved into the eight affected states to try to help people who need shelter and other basics. The task in Kentucky is “hard to process,” Nina Phelps of the Cajun Navy said.

Phelps, a Kentucky native, said the challenge in that state is how wide the devastation is. It affected people from Mayfield to Bowling Green, which is about a two-hour drive.

“This isn’t … something we can just walk house to house,” she said.

Bowling Green’s mayor, Todd Allcott, told NewsNation he believes there are fewer than five people unaccounted for in his city. The death toll there climbed to 15 Monday.

“This thing ripped us literally right down the middle of Bowling Green all the way from west to east,” he said. “It really divided us and kept us from being able to get to each other.”

It could take weeks to restore power to some in Bowling Green.

For now, the Mathenys are trying to keep things in perspective as they figure out how to move on.

“I may have lost my home, but people have lost so much more worse than I have,” Stephanie Matheny said. “I have my parents, you know, [my husband] has his family still. There’s so many that don’t.”

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