After Devastating Tornado, Living Lands & Waters Are Kentucky Lake’s Heroes

It’s been 40 days since the tornado.  The sheer devastation of the 190-mph winds in that deadly EF4 tornado cannot be respected by viewing the carnage on television or online.

Living in Murray, I chose not to drive to Mayfield or the Cambridge Shores area on Kentucky Lake to view the damage – simply out of respect for the folks and the recovery efforts.

Watching some video on social media, one thing that pulled at me was seeing the shorelines of Kentucky Lake totally trashed with debris.  Splintered two-by-fours, pontoons, pieces of docks, twisted metal and Lord knows what else.  The debris not only wrecked the shoreline at Cambridge but floated (or dumped by the tornado) across Kentucky Lake to the LBL side.

The rubble, washed up by the waves and some higher lake elevations, stretches from the path of the tornado to the Lake Barkley canal.  When seeing this video of the ruined shoreline, I couldn’t help but think how it would impact our pristine shorelines.

That’s where Kentucky Lake’s newest heroes come in.

Living Lands & Waters is a non-profit organization based in East Moline, Ill., some 425 miles north of Kentucky Lake.  These guys travel up and down the Mississippi River basin and its tributaries, preserving and restoring the natural environment of the rivers and lakes.

This small group of hard-working, dedicated men and women have been braving the elements, removing hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from both sides of Kentucky Lake.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to help document Living Lands & Waters’ restoration and cleanup efforts from the drone.  Seeing the devastation for the first time was heartbreaking.  However, watching the restoration work performed by this special group of people was nothing short of inspiring.

While I was there, two different crews were working.  One operated an excavator on the Cambridge Shores side of Kentucky Lake, picking up wrecked docks and other smashed-up building materials.  The excavator, located on the barge, would grab a handful of debris and place it on the barge with it.  When the barge got full, it went down to a nearby ramp and dumped its load for sorting.

Another two-person crew worked on the LBL side of Kentucky Lake, meticulously stacking up debris by hand in large piles.  The excavator later would go over and pick up the piles, but on this day, the waters of Kentucky Lake were a bit too choppy to make the trek – thanks to gusty winds of 25 mph.

For three hours, I stayed in a boat with Living Waters & Lands’ Callie Schaser, the organization’s Communications Specialist.  She did a great job explaining everything they did, their mission for Kentucky Lake, and directing me on capturing some footage for them to use.

They’ve been here for weeks and plan to continue to be here for weeks more – and they need your help.  They are looking for volunteers to help clean up and restore Kentucky Lake.  Considering the amount of debris on both shorelines, they definitely could use some strong hands in their cleanup efforts.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Rachel Loomis at 309-230-0057 or email  Or you can make a contribution to this wonderful 501(c)(3) organization by donating online through their website.

Below is a sample of some of the incredible footage from my trip with Living Lands & Waters yesterday.  I encourage you to lend a helping hand – whether it be volunteering or by a monetary donation – to help get Kentucky Lake back to its original beauty.

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