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Devastation Caused By Mid-December Tornado Mounts As Farms And Extension Research Facility Flattened

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The devastation created by a rare mid-December tornado is still being assessed. Across the South and Midwest, thousands of structures were demolished in the storms.

As the search continued for those still missing efforts have also turned to repairing the power grid, sheltering those whose homes were destroyed, and delivering drinking water and other supplies. Kentucky officials warn residents could be without heat, water, or electricity for weeks or longer.

University of Kentucky's research station in Princeton was destroyed in the storm. Princeton is more than three hours away from Lexington, Ky., which is the home of the University of Kentucky, but the Princeton location is a pinnacle piece of the University of Kentucky Extension's crop research efforts.

The research station was established in 1925 to help farmers in the Western Kentucky area. The research facilities had just been renovated and rededicated late last year. It then became known as the Grain and Forage Center of Excellence.

AgDay host Clinton Griffiths talked with the director of the program as he returned to the site to start picking up the pieces.

"99% of our structures have been condemned by our Fire Marshal, so we have a massive loss of many of our buildings and our primary building that housed over on faculty a lot of our research staff and our graduate students," says Chad Lee, Director of Grain and Forage Center of Excellence. "We had laboratories, offices, and meeting space. It's about 80,000 square feet and it is almost nearly gone. I think there were about five people total that were on the station when the tornado hit all five okay. It's a miracle that all five of them made it through. One of the students was in the house, [that] was on the historical list and there is nothing left at the house. He was in the old basement, and the wall fell into the basement, but not where he was seeking shelter, thankfully. And then there's nothing like I said, there's nothing else."

The tornado also damaged farms that were in the storm's path, which includes A-Maize-ing Farms in Mayfield, Ky., which is home to Kentucky's largest corn maze. But despite the damage, they say they will be up and running for the 2022 season.

And in Monette, Arkansas the before and after images, show farm buildings obliterated.

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