In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear revealed on Monday that the state’s death toll has reached 74 following a swarm of tornadoes that ravaged a 200-mile area through the Midwest and South. The governor only added that this number will only “continue to grow” as there are still around 109 people unaccounted for, per official estimates.
Multiple tornadoes tore through the U.S. Midwest and South, resulting in demolished houses and buildings, and a race against time to find survivors under debris.
Gov. Beshear described the set of tornadoes that went through the state last weekend as the most destructive ones in Kentucky’s history. In Mayfield, the twister managed to destroy a candle factory with around 110 people inside it. The governor even claimed that it would be a “miracle” to find any survivors under all the rubble.
During a press conference, the Kentucky governor stated that the resulting destruction caused by the tornadoes was “unlike anything I have seen in my life.” He admitted to being at a loss for words and noted that it’s highly possible the state’s death toll would go over 100 people.
Beshear also said that 189 National Guard personnel were already deployed to assist with the recovery efforts. Mayfield will likely be the center of the state’s rescue efforts. The city has 10,000 residents, and it converges with Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri.
A lot of videos and images that caught the devastation in downtown Mayfield surfaced online. It showed the downtown area of the city flattened, with vehicles buried under the rubble. Even the historic Graves County courthouse was not spared as the strong winds managed to topple the building down.
According to Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason, the candle factory in the city that was severely damaged has been reduced to a “pile of bent metal and steel machinery.” It had forced responders to crawl over the lifeless bodies just to reach survivors.
The tornadoes were likely caused by a series of overnight thunderstorms. This includes a supercell storm that formed in the northeastern area of Arkansas. It moved from there to Missouri, then into Tennessee and Kentucky.
According to Victor Gensini, a professor teaching geographic and atmospheric sciences at Nothern Illinois University, the environment that could cause an extreme weather event such as this is usually only caused by unusually high humidity and temperatures.
“This is a historic, if not generational event,” Gensini claimed.
On Saturday, Pres. Joe Biden gave his approval of an emergency declaration for Kentucky. He also noted that the disaster was possibly one of the biggest tornado outbreaks in the history of the country.
The president then told reporters that he would ask the Environmental Protection Agency to see what possible role climate change may have played in causing the storms. He also raised a question about the warning systems in place for such natural disasters.
On Monday, it has been revealed that Biden will head to Kentucky on Wednesday in order to survey the devastation caused by the tornadoes.
The White House said that he would head over to Mayfield and Dawson Springs following a briefing in Ft. Campbell.
The president said on Monday that he told every governor that the federal government would provide “whatever they need, when they need it.”
Biden went on to say that, “We’re going to get this done. We’re going to be there as long as it takes to help.”
Devastation in Other States
Kentucky was not the only state that suffered damages from the tornado onslaught. Parts of Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Tennessee were also severely affected.
In Monette Arkansas, a person died while five others suffered injuries when the tornado destroyed a nursing home, per Craighead County Judge Marvin Day.
Meanwhile, just a few miles away in Leachville, Arkansas, the tornado also tore through downtown and destroyed a Dollar General Store, resulting in the death of one person, according to Lt. Chuck Brown of the Mississippi County Sherrif’s Office.
An Amazon.com warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, collapsed after the twister went through it. This resulted in six confirmed deaths.
Video of the tornado that hit the Amazon facility near Edwardsville, IL tonight… from Danielle Henke pic.twitter.com/5CNbJ03VzI
— James Spann (@spann) December 11, 2021
The severe weather event also killed at least three people in Tennessee, according to the state’s Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Dean Flener. Meanwhile, two people, including a small child, died inside their homes in Missouri, as per Gov. Mike Parson.
According to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, it had gotten 36 reports of tornadoes that touched down and went through the six states.