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'It looks like a nuclear bomb hit' | Kentucky natives in Atlanta react to seeing hometown destroyed by tornadoes

Two Atlanta residents whose families live in Mayfield plan on heading home to volunteer next week.

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Kentucky officials confirm more than 70 people died and dozens are still missing after several tornadoes pulverized the area over the weekend.

The cleanup operation just began but will likely take years. President Joe Biden will head to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey the damage and is promising quick response from the federal government.

In Georgia, many family members have a connection to someone in the Bluegrass State.

Scheene Kendrick and Nick Futrell both live in Atlanta but are originally from Mayfield, Kentucky. That's the small town that got hit hard by the tornadoes.

"It's devastation everywhere," said Kendrick, after looking at several photos and videos of her hometown. "It looks like a nuclear bomb hit the city."

Both Kendrick and Futrell's families were safe and their homes were not destroyed, unlike many of the population there.

"The downtown part of Mayfield is unrecognizable," said Futrell. "I have looked at shots of a town where I grew up and spent 20 years of my life and have visited over the last 15 years, and I can't tell what I'm looking at anymore."

Credit: Nate Futrell

It's a city of about 10,000 people.

Kendrick said her family was awake and took cover when they heard about the terrible weather coming their way.

"I call my mother, I'm like, 'what's going on at home?' She says 'we need to take cover.' Luckily, I was able to get a hold of people before the cell phone service went down. My mom didn't know and my best friend didn't know how bad it was," she said.

Similarly, Futrell's parents hid in a closet for about an hour, listening to updates on their weather radio.

"They heard tornado sirens starting middle of the night, early in the morning and sheltered in place in a closet inside their house and waited for the storm to pass on," he said. "For them, it was heavy thunderstorms, lightning, a lot of wind damaging trees around their house."

RELATED: How to help Western Kentucky families following historic tornado outbreak

While their families were spared the damage, they know many people in the tight-knit community who will need help rebuilding their lives.

"I know a couple of friends of mine who lost their businesses, that have lost part of their homes," Futrell said.

While Kendrick added, "Even if my family is safe, I know other people's family, they have lost loved ones. They don't have a home. They don't have a job. They don't have anything. I know a young mother who lost her everything – even her own child. She was unable to save her baby." 

Kendrick's family has been staying in a hotel, which her family has told her are hard to come by.

"They were able to find one easily, but a lot of people weren't," she explained. "It's an unexpected expense for people to have to pay for a hotel room for you-don't-know-how-long or if they even have hotel rooms available."

RELATED: Two-month-old Kentucky girl dies from injuries after tornado destroys house

Crews have been working to find those still missing, repair the power grid, and deliver food and supplies.

However, Kentucky officials have said residents could be without heat, water or electricity for at least a few weeks.

"My parents actually have not been in town yet because there's so much debris in the streets," Futrell added. "First responders, volunteers are out there are working to clean things up, so it's just not safe to drive through town. They've heeded that warning to stay out."

Credit: Nate Futrell

Both Mayfield natives who are now Atlanta residents said they hope to head home next week and spend their time volunteering during the holidays.

"Whether it's with cleanup, or doing something for families that have been affected by this, to help them have some kind of a Christmas... I'd love to do something like that," Futrell said.

Futrell was there on Thanksgiving, while Kendrick's last time in the small city was in August.

"I come from a really good community," Kendrick added. "Even if they don't have much, they're gonna help each other out. They have faith...they're kind to each other."

RELATED: 'I can't explain it': Kentucky woman crawls through hole to get out of destroyed home, later reunited with dog she thought died

At least 54 trailers loaded with supplies have hit the road from the FEMA Distribution Center in Atlanta to head to Ft. Campbell Kentucky. The trucks will bring necessities to thousands who have lost everything from recent tornadoes. Officials said 217 more loaded trucks are on standby, ready to roll out in the next two days. 

For those who want to help, the Red Cross said there are two things you can do right now.

"Blood and money are the best ways to give, said Ruby Ramirez, regional communications manager at American Red Cross of Georgia. "Unfortunately, we are not accepting physical items. They're difficult to distribute in this scenario. If you want to help, $10, whatever you can contribute, visit redcross.org to make a donation or redcrossblood.org to find your nearest donation center or nearest blood drive."

And while Type O is the universal donor blood type, Ramirez said all types help. With a national blood bank, blood donated in Atlanta Monday could be used in a Kentucky hospital by the end of the week.

To help donate blood or money to the Red Cross, click here.

To help the Mayfield, Kentucky tornado victims, click here.

For more ways to help Kentucky tornado victims, click here.

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