Devastating tornadoes ripped through Kentucky Friday night and Saturday morning, leaving death and destruction throughout western Kentucky. Governor Andy Beshear and local officials held a news conference Saturday morning in Mayfield. The governor said the death toll is now “north of 70,” and he expects it will exceed 100. “This will be, I believe, the deadliest tornado system to ever run through Kentucky,” he stated. At an early morning news conference in Frankfort, Beshear called the storm “the most severe tornado event in Kentucky’s history.”
KLC staff and members extend their deepest sympathies to the victims of the storm and will do everything possible to help in the recovery. “It is devastating to see the images coming out of our communities this morning,” remarked KLC Executive Director/CEO J.D. Chaney. “I am confident our city officials will band together and do whatever it takes to help and support their friends and neighbors. Kentucky cities have always answered the call when a need arises, and I know they will be there this weekend and in the coming days and months to help in the recovery process.”
Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan told reporters, “Our hearts are broken.” She thanked the many people who have reached out to offer assistance, prayers, and support. “I have heard from so many mayors across the commonwealth,” she said. Mayor O’Nan said the city’s focus is currently on the victims. “Pray for us, stand with us, and we will come out stronger because of this.”
Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason also thanked neighboring communities for their support. “One of our biggest challenges in the days to come is going to be interoperability and communications,” he acknowledged. Chief Creason reported that the twister destroyed the city’s police and fire departments, including the bulk of the city’s emergency response fleet.
Several cities have damage, and municipal utility companies are working to restore power in several areas. Governor Beshear will tour the City of Dawson Springs Saturday afternoon. He expected another grim sight. “Initial reports are a good portion of Dawson Springs is gone,” he warned. The twister that tore through western Kentucky was on the ground in multiple states, spanning 227 miles. Most of that time was in Kentucky.
Kentucky Director of Emergency Management Michael Dossett reported the storm’s historical reach. “It may eclipse the 1925 record ‘Tri-state’ track for the longest tornado,” he explained. “It appears this is going to be a quad-state event, all out of the same system originating in Arkansas, through Missouri, Tennessee, and into Kentucky. It is a significant, massive disaster event.”
Cities with damage are encouraged to report it to KLC Insurance Services as soon as possible to help expedite claims. “Our staff is here to help with whatever needs cities face,” Chaney added.
The governor reported a mass-casualty event at the candle factory in Mayfield, where a roof collapse trapped dozens of workers. He told reporters at Saturday afternoon’s news conference that 110 workers were in the factory at the time and emergency crews have rescued around 40. Local news agencies have reported damage to multiple structures, including a nursing home and Mayfield City Hall.
Beshear declared a state of emergency in response to the storms and requested an immediate federal emergency declaration. Kentucky deployed more than 180 national guard soldiers to the area, including search and extraction and debris clearance teams. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) mobilized heavy equipment to help clear roads with the assistance of the National Guard and Division of Forestry. Beshear said that specialized emergency medical services (EMS) teams have also headed to the area.
Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell issued a statement Saturday morning, promising swift federal aid. “I am praying for the lives lost and communities impacted by the tornado devastation throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “Thank you to the first responders and the National Guard for their brave efforts amid this tragedy. As I continue to get reports from my staff, local and state officials, we will work with the entire Kentucky federal delegation to support Governor Andy Beshear’s request for federal assistance in order to aid these hard-hit communities with the funding and resources they need to rebuild.”
McConnell’s office shared a letter that Kentucky’s U.S. senators and congressmen sent to President Joe Biden to draw attend to Governor Beshear’s request for federal assistance.
KLC is working with the White House to provide the president contact information for city officials in the hard-hit areas.
Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers released a statement on behalf of the Senate Majority Caucus. “We are heartbroken to awaken this morning to the devastation caused by the violent weather that tore its way across the Commonwealth last night, claiming lives and most significantly impacting parts of western Kentucky. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Kentuckians affected by this tragedy. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to first responders for providing immediate aid to their communities amid this unimaginable destruction and stand ready to assist in the recovery.”
Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne released a statement on behalf of the Kentucky House of Representatives. We have spoken with members in areas impacted by last night’s tornado and are heartbroken by what we are hearing. Many, like Rep. Richard Heath of Mayfield, were out all night taking part in recovery efforts and are still working now to help their neighbors and constituents. The loss of human life, the injuries, and the absolute destruction of homes, businesses, churches, and public buildings is devastating. Our prayers are with the people impacted by these storms and the men and women responding to the rescue and recovery efforts.”