Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Keith Rogers, February 17, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Rogers's position and responsibilities / First night of the tornado

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Partial Transcript: This interview is part of the Western Kentucky 2021 Tornado Resilience Project.

Segment Synopsis: Rogers discusses his position as the chief of staff to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. He goes into detail about his experiences on the night when the tornado struck, citing the color of the sky and that he had anticipated it being particularly bad. Rogers describes working through the weekend with the Kentucky Emergency Center, and talks about the scope of the damage.

Keywords: Chiefs of staff; Kentucky Emergency Center; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Hardin County (Ky.); Kentucky. Department of Agriculture.; Natural disasters--United States.; Tornadoes.

00:04:10 - Initial response to the tornado / Organizing donations

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Partial Transcript: Can you--you mentioned that the initial response was--was pretty much raring to go by Monday morning.

Segment Synopsis: Rogers discusses organizing the initial response, working in connection with the Kentucky Farm Bureau. He notes that organizing donations was the majority of his duties during the immediate aftermath of the storm. Rogers says that donations came from across the entire nation and included hay, feed, and fences. He claims the most vital part of the process was creating and updating lists of contacts to share with the community, and as that slowed down he moved to direct cash donations.

Keywords: Disaster aftermath; Disaster response; Donations; Farmer relief; GoFundMe; Tornado relief; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Disaster relief.; Kentucky Farm Bureau.; Kentucky. Department of Agriculture.; Natural disasters--United States.; Tornadoes.

00:11:33 - Visiting damaged areas

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Partial Transcript: One thing we have done, is we have gone a lot forward, but could you maybe also describe, maybe, your first time going out to visit some of these sites, and what that experience was like as well.

Segment Synopsis: Rogers describes the experience of visiting devastated areas. He discusses how it took him a month to get to see the damage in Western Kentucky, due to working in the office. Rogers says he was particularly affected after seeing the Princeton research farm. He discusses the effectiveness of warnings to help prepare the local communities.

Keywords: Disaster aftermath; Princeton research farm; Tornadoes--Kentucky; Western Kentucky

Subjects: Disaster relief.; Farms--Research.; Natural disasters--United States.; Princeton (Ky.); Tornadoes.

00:13:04 - Rebuilding process

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Partial Transcript: So, it's been almost, you know, two months since this has happened--two months since the tornado went through, I guess.

Segment Synopsis: Rogers discusses the rebuilding process, noting that it will take months and years to finalize. He talks about how farmers are in a tough position, due to the damage not being enough to be covered by insurance. Rogers discusses the state of fields, which are covered in debris and nails, and the hope for volunteers to help clear fields. Rogers notes the role of the winter weather in affecting the rebuilding process. He talks about discussing with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell about creating an emergency agency similar to FEMA under the United States Department of Agriculture to help in situations like this.

Keywords: Debris fields; Disaster aftermath; Farm insurance; Mitch McConnell; Rebuilding; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Disaster relief.; Kentucky. Department of Agriculture, Labor and Statistics.; Kentucky. Department of Agriculture.; McConnell, Mitch.; Natural disasters--United States.; Tornadoes.

00:16:56 - Kentucky Department of Agriculture's capabilities

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Partial Transcript: Let me, let me just ask--so, this is potentially something that'll maybe move forward, and help in future ones, but you also have some other, um, natural disasters.

Segment Synopsis: Rogers talks about the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and its ability to respond to disasters such as the 2021 tornadoes, as well as the flooding the year before. He says that Department of Agriculture does not have the ability or the money to be able to provide emergency support through aid or through loans. Rogers discusses how the department is continuing to accept donations and work with the Farm Bureau to disperse those donations, but admits it will not solve every problem.

Keywords: Disaster aid; Donations; Emergency aid; Emergency funds; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Disaster relief.; Kentucky. Department of Agriculture, Labor and Statistics.; Kentucky. Department of Agriculture.; Natural disasters--United States.; Tornadoes.

00:21:34 - Support of the agricultural community

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Partial Transcript: And one final question, um, y-you've mentioned this a little bit, but, you know, one of the things that does happen, where the agricultural community is so strong, is they really do reach out and help others in the community.

Segment Synopsis: Rogers discusses how the local agricultural community joined together to help each other in the immediate aftermath of the tornado. He focuses on Mayfield, where farmers had equipment ready at three in the morning to begin cleaning up the streets. Rogers also points out the efforts of the Kentucky Cattlemen's Association in helping round up roaming cattle. He describes how donation money was used to restore some electric fences.

Keywords: Debris fields; Disaster response; Electric fence chargers; Kentucky Cattlemen's Association; Tornadoes--Kentucky

Subjects: Agriculture.; Disaster relief.; Farmers.; Mayfield (Ky.); Natural disasters--United States.; Tornadoes.