Indiana Woman Finds Vintage Kentucky Photo That Traveled 130 Miles Via Tornado Winds

Even among the devastation, moments of sweetness can occur.

click to enlarge A screenshot of Dec. 13, 2021, drone footage of the tornado devastation in Bowling Green, Kentucky - National Weather Service Louisville, YouTube
National Weather Service Louisville, YouTube
A screenshot of Dec. 13, 2021, drone footage of the tornado devastation in Bowling Green, Kentucky

The tornadoes that ripped through the Midwest and mid-South over the weekend caused untold death and destruction that officials still are trying to quantify.

But even among the devastation, moments of sweetness can occur.

On Saturday, Kate Posten of New Albany, Indiana, found a black-and-white photo on her windshield, the Associated Press reports.

The image? A woman in a striped dress holding a small boy on her lap.

The year on the back? 1942.

The owners? A family in Dawson Springs, Kentucky — 130 miles away.

The Associated Press reports that the heirloom photograph was deposited on Posten's car after being carried via winds from the series of deadly tornadoes that devastated five states on Dec. 10 and 11.  Dawson Springs is about four hours southwest of Cincinnati, with New Albany about two and a half hours northeast of the small town.

Hoping that social media friends could connect her with the photo's owners, Posten shared the image on Facebook, along with the names on the back:  Gertie Swatzell and J.D. Swatzell. Eventually, Cole Swatzell replied, saying that the photo belonged to his family in Dawson Springs.

"It’s really remarkable, definitely one of those things, given all that has happened, that makes you consider how valuable things are — memories, family heirlooms, and those kinds of things," Posten told the Associated Press. "It shows you the power of social media for good. It was encouraging that immediately there were tons of replies from people, looking up ancestry records, and saying ‘I know someone who knows someone and I’d like to help."

Posten said she plans to return the photograph to Swatzell's family this week.

Dawson Springs was one of the Kentucky towns that sustained severe destruction after the series of tornadoes.  Much of the hometown of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's father — former governor Steve Beshear — was wiped away.

"One block from my grandparents', there is no house standing. It's heartbreaking," Beshear tweeted Sunday.

More than 20 tornadoes sped through Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee over the weekend. The Weather Channel says that the cluster of tornadoes was the "deadliest outbreak in a decade."

Four of those tornadoes went through Kentucky. One tornado began in Arkansas, swept through Tennessee and then hit Kentucky, destroying everything in its path for more than 200 miles.


As of Monday afternoon, at least 74 Kentucky residents have been confirmed dead, Beshear said during a media briefing. That's an increase from the 64 dead that Beshear had mentioned earlier in the day. The deceased includes people ages five months to 86 years old, Beshear said.

Beshear estimated Monday that the damage across the state is worth "hundreds of millions of dollars, at least," though damages still are being assessed.

This weekend, U.S. President Joe Biden approved Beshear's request to declare a state of emergency in many Kentucky counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is working with state agencies to coordinate disaster relief and body recovery, plus the Kentucky National Guard and Kentucky State Police are assisting. Biden will travel to Kentucky on Wednesday, according to information shared Monday from the White House press pool.

Throughout the state, there are efforts to gather funds and materials for Kentucky tornado victims. Read CityBeat's story for an extensive list of ways to help.

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