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Dozens of people have died after a series of tornadoes ripped through Midwest and southern states last night, with Kentucky being the hardest hit.
“Officials said that there were ‘confirmed fatalities’ after a roof collapsed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, that three had died in Tennessee and at least one at an Arkansas nursing home,” The New York Times reported. “Kentucky’s governor said that at least 50 had been killed in a tornado’s path of over 200 miles, and that the state’s death toll was likely to increase to more than 70 in the coming hours.”
At least 30 tornadoes were reported throughout Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. The largest tornado that struck the region tore through more than 220 miles in Kentucky.
Hundreds of thousands of homes were left without power, including 136,000+ in Tennessee, approximately 60,000 in Kentucky, 25,000+ in Arkansas, roughly 24,000 in Illinois, and nearly 10,000 in Missouri.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency and requested that the Biden administration declare an emergency disaster for the state.
“One tornado struck the City of Mayfield which is reporting major damages to public facilities, businesses, and residences. It is reported that a Graves County factory has collapsed, trapping workers and we believe there are at least 50 fatalities,” Beshear said in a statement. “Debris covering emergency vehicle buildings has hampered search and rescue efforts. In Hopkins County, a train carrying hazardous materials has been derailed by a tornado. Vegetative and construction debris cover a multitude of county, state, and federal routes. At this point, at least 17 Kentucky counties have experienced tornadic activity and debris fields. The event is ongoing.”
More than 16 million Americans were subjected to tornado watches last night in nine states as the massive stormfront moved through America’s heartland.
The three-year average from 2018 to 2021 for tornadoes in December across the U.S. is 47, according to the SPC. Some Decembers are more active in terms of tornadoes compared to others. In 2018, there were 66 tornadoes reported, compared to just 18 in 2020.
AccuWeather meteorologists remain concerned that the risk of severe thunderstorms may extend as far north as southern Michigan and northern Ohio early Saturday. Following building warmth and humidity, the lid came off the atmosphere Friday evening as a cold front moved in from the west and lead to explosive thunderstorm development.
During a press conference, Beshear said that as the day progressed, people needed to brace themselves for “more tough news.”
“It has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history,” he said. “Some areas have been hit in ways that are hard to put into words.”
Beshear said that in Kentucky alone he believes that up to 100 people died from the tornadoes.
“This will be one of the most significant, the most extensive disasters that Kentucky has faced,” Kentucky emergency management director Michael Dossett said, adding this was “one of the darkest days in the state’s history.”