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1 Year After Deadly Tornado, Mayfield, Kentucky Is Slowly Rebuilding

A year after an EF4 tornado ripped through, the town of Mayfield is still trying to recover.
Posted at 8:36 PM, Dec 09, 2022

The nearly empty streets of downtown Mayfield, Kentucky were once filled with buildings. But after an EF4 tornado destroyed the area one year ago, progress to rebuild is slow, with years to go before it's back in full

One mark of progress though is at the center of Mayfield: a brand-new building where people can come and eat. The Barn, formerly known as Carr's Barn, reopened in June.

Owners Suzanne and Wayne Flint worked hard to get the restaurant back up and running again — a life decision that couldn't wait. 

AP / Tornado destruction is seen in downtown Mayfield, Kentucky.

"We had to make a decision, what we were going to do with the rest of our lives, and so when we got up here next morning, we started; we didn't wait," Wayne Flint said. "A lot of people come by here as we were doing this. 'Thank you very much for building back.' I mean, it came from the bottom of their hearts."

But as time has passed, they say hope started to wear off, and frustration grew.

"We're out here in the middle of it, and we see no progress," Suzanne Flint said. "I don't know where they're seeing progress. Sure, there have been several houses built. I'll give them that. But as far as the business side of it, downtown, there is no progress."

Just down the street across the railroad tracks, there is new hope to look forward to.

J.R. Mason, born and raised in Mayfield, is now the proud owner of Midtown Drive-In. It's one of the oldest buildings spared by the tornado, dating back to 1962.

"New trim, new paint, new flashing, new lights, we kept the original signs," Mason said. "They've been here so long."

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Renovation work started in September, and they're hoping to open this December.

Mason owns a garbage business and concessions business already, but he wanted to bring something back to his community.

"It makes me feel good knowing I'm bringing something like this back to community, especially this side of town that was affected so drastically by the tornado," Mason said.

Mason said he'd always jokingly said he wanted to open a "nice steakhouse" one day but didn't really dream of opening a restaurant. However, he thought this was something he needed to do.

"We were just talking about how Mayfield needed something, and the opportunity came about me buying it," Mason said. "It was rough around the edges, but we've really made it to something, and Mayfield needs something that's welcoming. I never thought I would be a restaurant owner. But I say all the time, we're not open yet, but I couldn't imagine not owning Midtown now."

Now The Barn and Midtown Drive-In are some of the lone symbols of a comeback for the town hit by destruction.

"It's gratifying knowing that were two family-owned businesses among a lot of chain restaurants, but knowing it's just this side of town makes me hope we can bring more to this side," Mason said.