Kentucky tornadoes: Determined recovery efforts begin after tornadoes wreak havoc, authorities estimate 75% of a Kentucky city has disappeared


In the small town of Dawson Springs, western Kentucky, about 75 percent of the community has been wiped out and replaced by “chaos,” Mayor Chris Smiley said Sunday.

“It’s the worst thing I have ever seen,” said Smiley, who has lived in the city for 63 years. “It’s just devastating.”

The line of severe weather that swept through the central and southern United States from Friday night to Saturday left at least 100 people dead. The storms have spawned at least 50 reported tornadoes in eight states, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

In Kentucky, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams are on the ground, said Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management. More than 300 National Guard soldiers are on duty in nine counties, according to Governor Andy Beshear.

“Devastation is frankly something you would see in a war zone. It’s an event where we have had commercial and residential properties literally stripped of the land,” Dossett told CNN on Sunday.

The Dawson Springs missing persons list contains more than 100 names, a Hopkins County emergency official said on Sunday, but they hope most are people who have left town but have not yet registered.

As rescue efforts continued on Sunday, no survivors were removed from the rubble, said Nick Bailey, director of emergency management in Hopkins County.

The city’s death toll rose to 13 on Sunday, from 10 on Saturday, Hopkins County Coroner Dennis Mayfield said. The deaths are between 34 and 86 years old and include two elderly sisters who lived together and a husband and wife.

“Right now our spirits are crushed, but we’ll be back,” Mayfield said.

Meanwhile, “hundreds and hundreds” of the city of nearly 3,000 people are homeless. “Almost an entire town has been moved by this point,” Bailey said.

Those whose homes are still standing are likely without power and could be in the dark for up to a month, Bailey said.

“You can replace a house, you can replace furniture, you can replace clothes, but you can’t replace memories and pictures,” Erica Steip said. WZTV affiliated with CNN as she rummaged through what remains of her sister’s house in Dawson Springs. “She’s alive, and I’m so grateful,” Steip said.

The American Red Cross has set up eight shelters in Kentucky and is helping nearly 200 people, the group’s Kentucky CEO Steven Cunanan said on Sunday.

Several state parks have also been opened to help house families who have lost everything, Beshear said at a press conference Sunday afternoon.

“We welcome them,” Beshear said. “We try to guarantee everyone a two week stay, so they don’t worry about the next day. They can worry about reuniting with loved ones, making sure their children have enough to eat.”

Cunanan said the Red Cross’ main goal is to provide food and medical care to people forced to leave their homes by tornadoes. “We need to help them get their lives back on track and help them regain a sense of normalcy.”

The emotional toll of a life turned upside down by a natural disaster is also an important consideration, Cunanan said. “I’ve seen this in every disaster I’ve been on. They’re in shock. They don’t know who to turn to.”

Rescuers Cannot Go Door-to-Door Because ‘There Are No Doors’, Says Kentucky Governor

For Beshear, devastation in Dawson Springs strikes near his home because it is his father’s hometown, but inclement weather has taken a toll on much of his condition.

The death toll in Kentucky alone is at least 80 and is expected to exceed 100, Beshear told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. Eighteen counties in the state are reporting damage, Beshear said, noting that a monster tornado was on the ground for more than 227 miles, including 200 in Kentucky.

A Navy veteran, loving grandfather and judge were among those killed in tornadoes that swept through several states

“I have cities that are gone – that are just, I mean, gone,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I mean, you go door to door checking people and seeing if they’re okay. There are no doors… it’s devastating.”

Beshear told NBC News he expects more challenges to come, given the power outages and winter weather conditions, and said some mortuaries in the state may not be able to respond. to current needs.

“One of our challenges is that we are losing so many people in this area, most of our mortuaries are not big enough, so our coroners from all over the state are coming in,” Beshear said.

According to Dossett, the director of emergency management, there is a “massive recovery effort” concentrated largely in Dawson Springs, Graves, Mayfield and Bowling Green.

President Joe Biden on Sunday night approved a major disaster declaration for Kentucky, the White House said. The move allows low-cost grants and loans to be allocated for housing and home repairs in the affected areas.

“Because housing, we know, is going to be such a huge need, we are sending one of our housing experts who will be here tomorrow to start the strategy on how we are going to be able to help long-term housing needs and restoring those communities, ”said Deanne Criswell, FEMA Trustee.

Debris and structural damage can be seen at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle plant in Mayfield, Ky., Early Saturday, December 11, 2021, following devastating tornadoes on Friday night.

Beshear told CNN he planned to visit the Mayfield candle factory which collapsed in the storm, which struck as employees worked to meet demands in the busy holiday season.

Eight people have died at the candle factory and eight more are missing on Sunday night, Mayfield Consumer Products spokesman Bob Ferguson told CNN.

“We know for sure that more than 90 employees lost their lives on tornado night,” Ferguson said.

“It will be a miracle if someone else is found alive,” Beshear said in the rubble of the collapsed candle factory. “There’s at least 15 feet of metal with cars on it, barrels of harsh chemicals there.”

The governor said he heard the facility had an emergency plan in place.

The candle factory operated 24/7.  to meet Christmas demand.  Then the storm hit

“Most of the workers went to what was supposed to be the safest place. But when you see the damage that this storm did not just there, but across the region, I’m not sure there was a plan that would have worked, ”he said.

As officials focus their attention on the immediate recovery needs, forecasters are watching for the potential of another round of severe weather in the region.

Although it is still early days, some tornado-affected areas will experience the same type of weather this week, with a warm-up followed by another front that could bring a risk of severe weather by the weekend, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.

Tornadoes reported in eight states

In addition to Kentucky, tornadoes from the same storm system have been reported in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, the National Weather Storm Prediction Center said. Service.

As of Sunday, five EF-3 tornadoes were identified in the following locations: Defiance, Missouri; Edwardsville, Illinois; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Saloma, Kentucky and Kentucky between Cayce and Beaver Creek, an area that includes the devastated town of Mayfield.

Before-and-after images show the scale of the tornadoes' devastation

At least six people have died in a collapsed Amazon warehouse in the city of Edwardsville, Ill., Said Fire Chief James Whiteford. The recovery phase is expected to take days and first responders will continue to search the site for evidence of life, he said.

The six dead were between 26 and 62 years old, the Edwardsville Police Department said.

One of the victims has been identified as Clayton Cope, a 29-year-old US Navy veteran. He had worked for Amazon for just over a year as a maintenance mechanic, said his mother, Carla Cope. Her father also worked at the facility in the same position.

“If (Clay) hadn’t been there my husband would have,” she said.

An Amazon representative said a tornado warning siren sounded 11 minutes before the storm arrived.

“The managers were on the loudspeakers telling people to go to the shelter-in-place area. They were also guided by other managers and other employees who were trying to get everyone to this place. sure, ”said Kelly Nantel, Amazon spokesperson. KSDK, subsidiary of CNN Sunday.

She said the workers took shelter in two unspecified safe areas. Nantel said dispatchers have also contacted Amazon delivery drivers in the region and told them to take shelter in place.

How you can help tornado victims

In the northeast Arkansas town of Monette, at least one person has been killed in a tornado-damaged nursing home, Mayor Bob Blankenship said.

A second person died after the storm hit a Dollar General store near Leachville, officials said. The person was identified on Sunday as deputy store manager June Pennington in Mississippi County, Arkansas, according to county spokesperson Tom Henry.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that it was a “miracle” that only one person died in the nursing home.

“As I walked into this facility, it was as if the sky had sucked in the roof and all of its contents. And it’s just a miracle with 67 residents that we only lost one. And that’s because of the heroic efforts of the staff and also the fact that we had a 20 minute warning, “he said.

Authorities have confirmed two storm-related deaths in Missouri, including a woman killed at home in St. Charles County and a young child killed at home in Pemiscot County, the governor said.

Tennessee has reported four weather-related deaths from inclement weather. Two were in Lake County, one in Obion County and one in Shelby County, Tennessee emergency management spokesperson Dean Flener said.

CNN’s Ashley Killough, Laura Studley, Kiely Westhoff, Susannah Cullinane, Eric Levenson and Amir Vera contributed to this report.


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