Late Friday night, several tornadoes ripped through the Midwest, hitting the state of Kentucky the hardest, causing severe structural damage and taking the lives of at least 50 people in the Bluegrass State. On Saturday morning, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear announced he had declared a state of emergency and said the total death is expected to be between “70-100 people.”
“We are nearing the end of the most severe tornado event in Kentucky’s history,” Beshear said Saturday morning at a 4:00 am press conference. “Multiple tornadoes have touched down and we have damage in — I believe — over a dozen Kentucky counties. The primary tornado was on the ground continuously for over 200 miles in our state, something we have never seen before.”
“We have deaths in multiple — possibly many counties,” the governor continued. “The hardest-hit county appears to be Graves, where the city of Mayfield has been devastated. A roof collapse at a candle factory has resulted in mass casualties.”
The governor also said that he had been in communication with local and state emergency response teams and has also activated the national guard, adding that he requested an immediate federal emergency declaration — a move that would allow Kentucky access to federal emergency funds.
“This has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history and some areas have been hit in ways that are hard to put into words. To all of our Kentucky families that are impacted by this, we want you to know that we are here for you, we love you, and we are praying for you,” Beshear added.
“We will get make it through this, we will rebuild,” Beshear said during his press conference. “We are strong, resilient people, and we will be there every step of the way.”
As CNN noted, the historic weather event was not limited to Kentucky alone. “At least 24 tornadoes were reported across five states — Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee according to the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, with fatalities also reported by officials in Arkansas and Illinois.”
On social media, videos of the devastating tragedy began surfacing early Saturday morning. In a video posted by ABC News, victims of the tornado can be heard saying, “nothing is left” as they look at the widespread destruction:
— ABC News (@ABC) December 11, 2021
The Mayor of Coal Run, Kentucky, shared the following photo, saying, “What’s left of Graves County Courthouse. The City of Coal Run stands with the people of Mayfield, and we pray for all affected by these deadly tornadoes. If you live in western Kentucky, or anywhere in Midwest USA, please take caution and heed local weather alerts.”
What’s left of Graves County Courthouse. The City of Coal Run stands with the people of Mayfield, and we pray for all affected by these deadly tornadoes. If you live in western Kentucky, or anywhere in Midwest USA, please take caution and heed local weather alerts. pic.twitter.com/39kiWa2Uyd
— Andrew H. Scott (@CommissionerKY) December 11, 2021
Scott Pile — meteorologist and producer for The Weather Channel — tweeted: “Tragic. Hope and pray for when first light shows the damage. Likely one of the most deadly, longest-tracked tornadoes on record last night from Arkansas to Kentucky.”
Tragic. Hope and pray for when first light shows the damage. Likely one of the most deadly, longest-tracked tornadoes on record last night from Arkansas to Kentucky. At least 50 people likely dead with death total expected to rise according to Kentucky’s governor @AndyBeshearKY pic.twitter.com/8flTj7Ph83
— Scot Pilié (@ScotPilie_Wx) December 11, 2021
CNN also added that “[m]uch of the eastern US will be impacted by rain into Saturday evening. Isolated strong to severe thunderstorms may occur from the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys into the northern Gulf States, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Wind gusts, hail and an isolated tornado remain possible.”