Tornado hit UK Agriculture extension building in Morgan County

By Jarrod Thacker

Lexington was spared the brunt of the severe weather on Friday that caused serious damage to several other towns, but UK endeavors located outside of Fayette County were not as fortunate.

The UK College of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service is an outreach and engagement program that addresses community issues directly by having satellite offices in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Of the 120 offices, the Morgan County branch located in West Liberty is the only one to have suffered damage, said Jimmy Henning, associate dean for cooperative extension.

“In terms of our physical damage, the Morgan County office in West Liberty is for purposes destroyed,” Henning said. “It’s still mostly all sitting there. It’s pushed down and blown across the street … that office is completely non-functional.”

Although the cooperative extension service staff have since been able to recover vital equipment from the remains of the facility, Henning made it clear the safety of the workers staffed at the location was priority.

“When things like this happen, our number one concern is: How are our people? Are they safe?” he said.

Monday’s Kernel featured Morgan County extension agent Sarah Fannin who was interviewed the day after the tornado on Saturday. Then, Fannin said only four out of the six staff members have been accounted for. Henning confirmed all are safe.

At this point in time, Henning is not sure when service to the Morgan County branch of the cooperative extension service will be restored. Representatives from UK Facilities Management visited the site Monday to try to access the situation, but Henning said the majority of decisions made will be dependent on actions taken by the county and state emergency management officials.

“We have offices in neighboring counties; we’ve got staff that can do whatever we need to do to help emergency management get life back to normal there,” Henning said. “We want to make sure we do our part.”

Henning recommends anyone wanting to assist with recovery efforts at this point to find agencies that can provide relief money to these areas.

The Kentucky Emergency Management website offers resources, including information regarding procedure in disaster situations, a form to report a missing person and forms to donate or volunteer resources and skills.

“Kentucky’s a great community,” Henning said. “There’s a great community spirit in eastern Kentucky. There are people no doubt trying to help their neighbors get things found and accommodated. It’s just going to be a long haul.”