Kentucky's Tornadoes Were Among the Most Deadly in History

Emergency crews will continue recovery efforts this week.

Dec 13, 2021 at 10:17 am
click to enlarge Gov. Andy Beshear during a Dec. 11 briefing about Kentucky's tornado outbreak - Photo: YouTube screengrab
Photo: YouTube screengrab
Gov. Andy Beshear during a Dec. 11 briefing about Kentucky's tornado outbreak
Officials are still trying to piece together the full devastation and death count from a series of tornadoes that ripped through multiple states — including Kentucky — this weekend.

More than 20 tornadoes descended upon the Midwest and mid-South on Dec. 10 and early Dec. 11, hitting Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee. Emergency agencies estimate that more than 90 people died, though Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Sunday that count likely will increase this week as agencies continue to survey the damage.

Mayfield, Kentucky — about five hours southwest of Cincinnati — is among the hardest-hit towns. A tornado directly hit the Mayfield Consumer Products factory, where about 110 people were working the night shift. Forty of them had been rescued as of Saturday.

Dawson Springs, Kentucky — the hometown of Beshear's father, former governor Steve Beshear — was largely wiped away. The small town is about four hours southwest of Cincinnati.

"One block from my grandparents', there is no house standing. It's heartbreaking," Beshear tweeted Sunday.

The Weather Channel says that Friday's cluster of tornadoes was the "deadliest outbreak in a decade." Tornadoes typically don't occur during colder months, experts say.

The tornado that tore through Kentucky came up from Arkansas and whirled through Tennessee. Experts are still surveying its path, but it's generally believed to have traveled well over 200 miles, making it one of the longest and most violent in history.

On Dec. 11, U.S. President Joe Biden approved Beshear's request to declare a state of emergency in many Kentucky counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will work with state agencies to coordinate disaster relief and body recovery. Beshear said the Kentucky National Guard and Kentucky State Police were mobilized this weekend to assist.

Emergency fundraisers for Kentucky communities are under way, including the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

The tornado devastation comes 10 months after Kentucky was ravaged by severe flooding in February. Beshear and Biden also declared a state of emergency then. In June, Beshear said that the approved federal aid package was the largest award for individuals displaced from damage to homes since 2010.

Beshear will hold another briefing on disaster relief efforts and resident recovery on Monday.

Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get the latest on the news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.