Recent tornadoes should spur reform like past natural disasters

George G. Humphreys

“By-and-by hard times will come a-knocking at my door.”

So says Kentucky’s state song “My Old Kentucky Home.”  That seems appropriate in the weeks following the horrific impacts of the series of killer tornadoes that struck western Kentucky. For me, as I awaited the appearance of my political history of western Kentucky, my focus turns to previous natural disasters that struck the region.

Certainly, the New Madrid earthquake of 1811 ranks high on the list. The extreme southwest portion of western Kentucky, which at the time belonged to native American tribes, was in the center of one of the nation’s strongest earthquakes. It caused the Mississippi River to reverse course and formed Reelfoot Lake on the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. Damage would have been great, but western Kentucky, part of the western frontier, was sparsely populated. Nevertheless, early settlers reacted to the intensity of the quake and its aftershocks which they believed foretold end times with a dramatic uptick in their religious fervor, known as the Great Revival, spread eastward.

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