Interview with Tracy Warner, June 3, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
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00:00:00 - Introduction / Background

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Partial Transcript: Today's date is June 3rd, 2022--

Segment Synopsis: Tracy Warner is introduced as a lifelong resident of Mayfield serving as the Graves County emergency management director. She describes growing up on her parent's farm, spending time in the tobacco fields. Warner says that her traditions in the area include going to the Christmas parade and attending the trade day at Mayfield Fairgrounds.

Keywords: Christmas parades; Farmers; Graves County (Ky.); Graves County emergency management director; Mayfield Fairgrounds; Tobacco farms; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:03:15 - Becoming the Graves County emergency management director

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Partial Transcript: And then, um, do you mind telling me a little bit--

Segment Synopsis: Warner says that when she began dating the fire chief, she started to get into emergency response. She says this prompted her to get her EMT license. Warner started volunteering which eventually led her to get a job with Marshall County Ambulance Service. She says she left that position as she got older because of the twenty-four hour shifts. Warner describes applying to be the emergency management director and getting the job shortly after.

Keywords: EMT licenses; EMTs; Emergency medical technicians; Emergency response; Fire chiefs; Graves County (Ky.); Graves County emergency management director; Marshall County (Ky.); Marshall County Ambulance Service; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:05:18 - The day of the tornado

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Partial Transcript: So, that day was weird because it was warm--

Segment Synopsis: Warner says that the day of the tornado was odd because it was very unseasonably warm and emphasizes that people couldn't really prepare for the event because it was mostly just a typical day. She says she was unsure that day whether she would have a home to return to that night. Warner describes beginning to set up the Emergency Operations Center in preparation for the weather event.

Keywords: Mayfield Emergency Operations Center; Natural disasters; Severe weather; Tornadoes; Weather events; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:08:21 - Role as emergency management director

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Partial Transcript: So, that night, um, I set up shop--

Segment Synopsis: Warner describes setting up the emergency operations center, and encountering various technical difficulties. She says the National Weather Service told her the event would likely be catastrophic and describes calling first responders and her family members telling them to be ready. After the tornado struck, her daughter called to inform her the nursing home where she was working took a direct hit. She describes the destruction as she tried to get to her daughter and says that eventually she had to turn around to go back to the operations center where she worked for several days straight.

Keywords: Emergency management directors; Emergency operations centers; National Weather Service; Nursing homes; Tornadoes; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:18:42 - Personal impact

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Partial Transcript: So you, um--it took a little bit--

Segment Synopsis: Warner says that it took her a while to get the full picture of things. She says both of her daughters lost their cars that night. She recalls that balancing her work as emergency manager with caring for her daughters was very difficult and describes working eighteen hour days to distribute supplies and care for over thirty thousand people. She says she wants to conduct the recovery effort by the book and that it take a lot of time and energy.

Keywords: Disaster recovery; Emergency managers; Natural disasters; Rebuilding; Recovery; Severe weather; Supply distribution; Tornadoes; Weather damage; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:21:39 - Managing the recovery effort

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Partial Transcript: With how, um, that kind of all went with people coming into Mayfield--

Segment Synopsis: Warner describes managing the volunteers that came into the community as very hard and overwhelming. She says that there were individuals who tried to rob others of their belongings and grift off of the disaster. Warner describes how many circumvented the official FEMA pathways to volunteer which made it difficult to tell who was acting in good faith.

Keywords: Disaster recovery; Disaster relief; FEMA; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Grifts; Looting; Tornadoes; Volunteers; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:25:02 - Organizational relief

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Partial Transcript: Do any in particular stand out in your mind--

Segment Synopsis: Warner says that she never interacted with many of the organizations because they were there unofficially and describes how some organizational efforts were actually counterproductive in dealing with FEMA and insurance companies. She also describes being concerned that unofficial volunteers would smoke around gas leaks. Warner describes how Samaritan's Purse has been very helpful in recovering from the disaster.

Keywords: FEMA; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Gas leaks; Insurance companies; Samaritan's Purse; Tornadoes; Volunteers; Mayfield (Ky.)

00:28:18 - Long term recovery

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk--and this is a pretty broad question--

Segment Synopsis: Warner hopes that the tornado events will bring people's faith back, but she emphasizes some have been very impatient. She discusses how there is still no available housing and says that there are still many who have nowhere to go. Warner hopes that they will have affordable housing to offer people. She discusses some of the new construction in the area, and the difficulties faced in rebuilding as a result of COVID-19. She emphasizes community interaction as important in maintaining mental health.

Keywords: Affordable housing; COVID-19 (disease); Coronavirus; Covid-19; Disaster recovery; Housing; Mental health; New construction; Rebuilding; Tornadoes; Weather events; Mayfield (Ky.)