Snow blankets tornado rubble, complicating cleanup

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Story highlights

NEW: 40 were killed when tornadoes tore through five states

NEW: "I just started praying for everybody," says one resident

Snow falls on debris in West Liberty, Kentucky

Roads are slick as crews work to restore power in tornado-ravaged areas

West Liberty, Kentucky CNN  — 

Cleanup workers make plodding progress Monday in parts of Kentucky and Indiana where fresh snow complicated efforts to dig out of the destruction wrought by last week’s deadly tornadoes.

About three inches of snow fell overnight in West Liberty, Kentucky. One resident there, George Weddington, worked to repair the roof of a building next to a more than 100-year-old church that had its top torn off. He recalled what he did during the storm.

“I was really praying for us – and I realized I was being selfish – and I just started praying for everybody, you know. I don’t know if that helped or not, but I did my best,” he said.

Roads were slick as crews worked to restore power in tornado-ravaged areas.

A fresh blanket of snow also covered storm debris in Henryville, Indiana, where residents were just beginning to pick up the pieces after two tornadoes hit the town, including an EF-4 twister, with winds of up to 200 mph.

Debris and downed power lines forced authorities to block roadways. Half of the town remained without power and gas, Indiana State Police Sgt. Gary Jessee said early Monday.

The tornado outbreak began Friday and extended into the next day, affecting millions of people from Indiana to Georgia. At least 42 tornadoes swept across 10 states on Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Alabama town struck twice in one year

By the time the powerful storm system faded, 40 were dead: 22 in Kentucky, 13 in Indiana, three in Ohio, and one each in Alabama and Georgia.

The tornadoes paralyzed a large part of eastern Kentucky, one of several states that requested Federal Emergency Management Agency teams to help conduct assessments.

“The damage I saw yesterday was the worst I’ve seen. … It was a war zone, debris everywhere, buildings destroyed, other buildings just the walls standing, roofs gone. It was a terrible sight,” Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told reporters Sunday, describing his visit to the tornado-ravaged town of West Liberty.

As the focus turned to caring for survivors whose lives were turned upside down by the storm, hundreds of National Guard troops were deployed, while good Samaritans donated what they could.

“When something like this happens, everybody wants to … pull together, to help each other out. That’s what it’s all about,” volunteer Victor Jett said.

Bloomington, Indiana, resident Ron Stanhouse rushed to Henryville to help his college roommate after the storm.

“I had stopped and bought a generator and a chain saw and a bunch of gas and gloves, thinking maybe we were going to cut some trees and repair his house,” Stanhouse told CNN’s iReport, “but there were no houses there.”

Indiana State Police Sgt. Jerry Goodin said the destruction left authorities there with “no idea how many people are left homeless.”

In Henryville, about 20 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky, the EF-4 tornado destroyed schools, homes and businesses, leaving many parts of the town unrecognizable, Kevin Welz told CNN’s iReport.

“It is something you would expect to see in an end-of-the-world movie,” he said.

A toddler who had survived the storm in New Pekin, about 20 miles west of Henryville, died Sunday afternoon after family members took her off life support, Jefferson County Coroner Bob Jones said.

Tiny symbol of tornado survival dies

The 14-month-old girl had been in critical condition, surrounded by extended family members at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, said hospital spokesman Brian Rublein. Her immediate family – including her parents, 2-year-old brother and 2-month-old sister – all were killed.

In addition to the dead, hospitals continued to treat scores suffering from major trauma to minor injuries related to sudden ferocious spurts of high winds, powerful hail and drenching rains.

More than two dozen people were injured in Hamilton County, Tennessee, where tornadoes Friday destroyed 77 homes and damaged hundreds more, Emergency Services Director Tony Reavley said in a statement.

Residents and officials across the tornado-damaged areas said they were committed to rebuilding their communities.

Beshear said residents in West Liberty and other parts of his state were showing their resilience.

“It’s going to be a long, long time to get that town back on its feet, but somehow or another I know they’ll want to do it, I know they will do it, and we’re going to help them do it,” he said.

CNN’s Rob Marciano, Athena Jones, Dana Garrett, Chris Welch, Susan Candiotti, Jacqui Jeras, Daphne Sashin, Nicole Saidi and Rick Martin contributed to this report.