My business was destroyed by the Kentucky tornadoes. I've been trying to hold it together ever since.

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My business was destroyed by the Kentucky tornadoes. I've been trying to hold it together ever since.
Big Red Tax after the tornadoes.Jon Pellegrino
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Jon Pellegrino, a 40-year-old accountant from Bowling Green, Kentucky. It has been edited for length and clarity.

It's been an emotional roller coaster of me trying to hold it together.

Ten years ago we began our first buildout of Big Red Tax. We could have put the accounting firm anywhere in the US. However, I came back to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to start this business venture. There's something special about our community — we all truly care about and look out for each other.

No preparations were made — the storm was supposed to go 45 miles north of us. I was with my family in our home 3 miles from the tornado zone.

The tornado hit early in the morning some time after 1 a.m. central time, and it was an experience no one could describe. I was looking out my french doors in my master bedroom and saw lightning hit a tree in my neighbor's backyard about 120 feet away. When the lightning hit, the high winds started to develop.

I have a massive maple tree in my backyard and it was flexing, meaning the top of the tree was touching the ground. Then out of nowhere, everything stopped — no rain, no thunder or lightning. All of the sudden I felt a ton of pressure, ears popping and all, and it felt like my roof was going to come off my home. My wife and I ran to the hallway bathroom and hunkered down.

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As for my business, it lost its roof and awning, all the windows are busted out, and there's a bunch of water damage

I have no clue what the cost of damages is. Based on what I've seen so far, I estimate at least $200,000.

I do have business renter's insurance. I won't know anything about financials and payouts until the insurance adjuster gets out here. If the building owner does a total rebuild, that will take years and could potentially devastate my business.

I currently have almost 2,000 active clients and tax season starts in 2 weeks

My business was destroyed by the Kentucky tornadoes. I've been trying to hold it together ever since.
Big Red Tax after the tornadoes.Jon Pellegrino

If my clients take their business elsewhere, there's a good chance they'll never return. However, if we have to move and can't find anything it will financially cripple our business.

I'm focused on finding an interim space right now. Multiple property owners have offered me office space so we can prepare income taxes this season.

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A storm of this magnitude has brought our community closer together, and it's truly bringing out the goodwill in people

Churches are sending out clean-up crews, schools are organizing donation drives, and food trucks are serving families affected, workers, and volunteers. People are lending their homes for heat, washing clothes, and charging phones.

Three blocks, devastated by fallen trees, were cleaned up in a day from hundreds of volunteers, young and old, from every walk of life. Teachers are checking on students and volunteering daycare for displaced families and volunteers so that more people can go into the community to help. Restaurants are donating to relief funds.

I'm lucky. I still have my family alive, my home, heat, and electricity, whereas many people in Bowling Green are not that lucky.

As of now we don't know where we'll move in the interim. We're just praying for the best.

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