In the immediate aftermath of deadly tornadoes, a team of AP journalists focuses on devastated Kentucky communities.

When a tornado warning sounded across Kentucky Friday night, the AP’s Appalachian staff didn’t wait to find out if a twister really touched down. They hit the phones and worked their sources, scrambling to find whatever information they could in the dead of night. By early Saturday morning it had become clear Kentucky was going to be the epicenter of one of the most powerful tornadoes to hit the region in recent memory.

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AP Photo / Dylan T. Lovan

In West Virginia, reporter John Raby chased sources, tips and user-generated content from Friday night until sunrise Saturday morning. By that time, Louisville reporter Dylan Lovan was on his way to Bowling Green, where he made an important early photo from the storm: a semitrailer that had been flipped over and thrown into the side of a building. He then moved on to Mayfield, where he switched hats to video, transmitting the first live shot anyone had of the devastated town. He kept the live feed going for hours.

Kentucky statehouse correspondent Bruce Schreiner was also out the door before dawn Saturday, along with Louisville-based national writer Claire Galofaro, reporting dramatic accounts of survivors reeling from the storm.

Amid the team's urgent coverage, there was one important pause: When Gov. Andy Beshear expressed fears that a candle factory collapse could have left as many as 70 dead, AP treated his prediction with a caution borne of experience. Not everyone did. While other news outlets breathlessly repeated the governor’s grim prediction, the AP team was more measured, preserving a reputation for accuracy when the actual toll came in much lower.

By mid-morning Saturday, Nashville photographer Mark Humphrey was filing powerful images of destruction in Mayfield, and when New Orleans photographer Gerald Herbert arrived late in the afternoon he hiring a plane for aerial photos. The sun had already set, but Herbert managed to make impressive photos from the air as rescuers worked into the night searching for survivors in the remains of the candle factory. Freelance photographer Michael Clubb contributed from Bowling Green and Dawson Springs.

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Nashville video journalist Kristin Hall, left, sets up for an interview with the senior minister of First Christian Church after an outdoor service at the tornado-damaged church in Mayfield, Ky., Dec. 12, 2021.

AP Photo / Mark Humphrey

Video journalist Kristin Hall added compelling footage of worshippers attending Sunday services. Throughout the weekend, she and Bumsted filed video with survivors’ moving stories. At the same time, Travis Loller, the Appalachian breaking news staffer, worked tirelessly to pursue leads, flag developments from other media and flesh out coverage, while the crew on AP’s Central Desk contributed mightily on the storm’s impact in other states.

AP’s mainbar text stories were used by some 1,000 news outlets on both Saturday and Sunday, and dominated play on the AP News app. Photos and video — live and edited — also earned heavy play with AP customers.

For smart, fast, determined coverage in the days immediately following the storm, the team of Schreiner, Lovan, Galofaro, Humphrey, Herbert, Hall, Bumstead, Raby and Loller is AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner.

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