Amy Moore was awakened at her home in Bowling Green, Ky., early Saturday morning by a litany of cowbell-like alerts going off on her phone. She shook her husband awake and they both got out of bed.
They turned on the television to find out what was happening. “But then WBKO went black, and that’s when I knew something was wrong,” recalled Ms. Moore, 33, who works as a customer service supervisor.
Her husband, Brad, a court security officer for the Warren County Sheriff’s office, opened their front door to see if he could see the storm, but it was too dark.
What they did not know was that a tornado had already touched down right in the heart of Bowling Green, Kentucky’s third-largest city. And it was headed toward their home on Nutwood Street.
They heard it first — like a train whistle, and growing closer by the second.
They grabbed their dogs, a Husky and an Aussie, and piled into the hall closet. Mrs. Moore wrapped her arms around each dog and Brad threw his body on top of hers.
Almost instantly, windows began shattering outside the closet.
They heard parts of the roof being sucked upward and outward, and wood chips and debris started falling on them. A mini-cyclone of shingles swirled around their bedroom, scratching up the walls. And then, silence.
Brad recalled how, still holding his wife in the closet after the noise subsided, he had teared up as he told her how grateful he was that he had not lost her.
When the couple emerged, they found all their windows blown out and a large hole torn in the middle of their roof. Shingles, pieces of timber and shards of glass strewn all over the floors. But the rest of their home had been spared.
Not everyone in Bowling Green was that fortunate.
Several children were among about a dozen people killed there, according to a county coroner.
A four-month old was killed about 50 miles from Bowling Green in Bremen, Ky.
All of the children that were killed in Bowling Green “were in residential homes, in residential apartments,” Warren County Coroner Kevin Kirby said Sunday afternoon in a telephone interview. Mr. Kirby declined to say precisely how many children were among the dozen killed in the county, but said the victims represented “a broad spectrum of ages.”
“It’s just sad to lose anyone but it’s really sad to lose a child,” Mr. Kirby said. “It’s not supposed to be that way.”
Mike Buchanon, the county judge-executive in Warren County, said at least 500 homes and 100 businesses were destroyed or damaged.
The National Weather Service has classified the tornado that hit Bowling Green as an EF-3 tornado, with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour. It was a separate tornado from the one that struck western Kentucky and Arkansas.
A main business district in the center of Bowling Green along Highway 31-W was among the hardest hit, with local landmarks like the Cardinal Hotel, a throwback single-story motel demolished. An iconic red concrete cardinal statue in front of the motel was untouched, standing sentinel now over piles of wood, roof sheeting and pink insulation.
The National Corvette Motorsports Park was also heavily damaged, as were several warehouses.
Ms. Moore said she considered herself among the more fortunate, since she has family nearby to help.
“Going through this, it’s life-changing,” Ms. Moore said. “It makes you more humble, more appreciative, and now more grateful you are here. All the other stuff, it doesn’t matter. Family is what matters.”