WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will get a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by this weekend’s deadly tornadoes when he travels to Kentucky on Wednesday, as recovery efforts ramp up and the scale of the disaster comes into sharper focus.
Biden will travel to Fort Campbell for a storm briefing and then will visit Mayfield and Dawson Springs, two of the towns hardest hit by the storms, to survey the damage.
The White House is expected to release additional details about Biden’s schedule upon his departure.
“While the president is there, he will be surveying storm damage firsthand, making sure that we’re doing everything to deliver assistance as quickly as possible in impacted areas to support recovery efforts,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
Biden will be joined by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Federal Emergency Management Administrator Deanne Criswell, Psaki said. She said the president invited the entire Kentucky delegation to travel with him to the state, but did not disclose whether the lawmakers had accepted.
The string of tornadoes ripped across five states on Friday and Saturday, leveling buildings, tearing apart homes and killing at least 88 people from Arkansas to Illinois. Kentucky bore the brunt of the storms, with the death toll standing at 74 people as of Tuesday and more than 100 still unaccounted for in the state.
The largest and most devastating of the tornadoes directly hit Mayfield – one of Biden’s stops in Kentucky – which is home to the candle manufacturing plant where more than 100 people were working when the storm hit. Eight of the factory’s employees are among the dead, according to local officials.
Biden may also see a nursing home in Mayfield that suffered catastrophic damage but where all 74 residents survived in what one employee called “truly a miracle.”
In Dawson Springs, many homes were flattened and trees shredded by the tornadoes.
Across Kentucky, more than 20,000 people remained without power on Tuesday morning, as federal, state and local emergency disaster personnel scrambled to help residents recover.
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Beshear said state officials have been working closely with the White House to coordinate Biden’s trip.
“We will welcome him here, we will thank him for his help and sadly, we’ll show him the worst tornado damage imaginable, certainly the worst in our history,” Beshear said during a Monday press briefing on the tornado damage.
Biden issued an emergency declaration on Saturday in the immediate aftermath of the storm to get federal resources to Kentucky more quickly. The president has told Beshear and the governors of other affected states that federal disaster officials will get resources to them quickly
“This administration has made it clear to every governor: whatever they need, when they need it,” Biden said. “We’ll get it to them … as rapidly as we can. And that’s what we’re doing here in Kentucky.”
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_
Contributing: Lucas Aulbach and Jimmy Settle of the Louisville Courier Journal