Death toll rises as relief efforts swarm the state

December 28, 2021
Lannie Lear visited with Art Hoffman, a retired public health official, who played Santa Claus in Bremen on Christmas Day. The town is limited to about 200 people but had about 12 fatalities on the night of the tornado.
Dec. 25, 2021


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Following a weekend of atypical Christmas celebrations, residents in Western Kentucky areas ravaged by tornadoes nearly two weeks ago try to pick up the pieces of their lives.

A record 77 deaths have been reported so far in Kentucky from tornadoes that plowed through the commonwealth late Dec. 10 and into the early hours of Dec. 11. More than 1,000 properties were destroyed.

Hundreds of people have lost their homes and jobs as relief organizations have swarmed the state to offer assistance.

Here’s what we know:

How many tornadoes hit Kentucky?

National Weather Service surveyors are still working to determine how many tornadoes touched down as part of the storm system that brought devastation across the western portion of the state.

But multiple tornadoes have been confirmed — including the “long-track” twister that tore through Mayfield on a path from Fulton County to Muhlenberg County and another that hit the Bowling Green area.

The “long-track” tornado is believed to have been on the ground for more than 200 miles, part of a storm system that ran from Arkansas into Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.

On Dec. 20, the National Weather Service confirmed three more EF-1 tornadoes: near Richmond, Kentucky, in Madison County; near Kirksville, Kentucky, in Madison County; and in Hardin County, Kentucky.


‘THIS MAKES THEIR DAY’:Even a tornado can’t keep Santa Claus from delivering gifts to these Kentucky children

How many people died in the Kentucky tornadoes?

At least 77 people died in the tornadoes in Kentucky, breaking a state record set in 1890 for storm-related deaths.

Of those deaths, 23 came from Graves County, where Mayfield is located. Nine people died who were working at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory the night of the storm.

Meanwhile, the Hopkins County coroner confirmed 14 deaths tied to the storm, and the Warren County coroner and police confirmed 17 deaths in the county from the storm, including a family of seven.

HERE ARE THE NAMES WE KNOW:Kentucky tornado death count reaches 77 victims.

TORNADOES TOOK MINUTES TO DESTROY KENTUCKY COMMUNITIES:Here’s what the long recovery will look like.

What did Christmas look like for Kentucky tornado victims?

In Mayfield, First Christian Church and First Presbyterian Church — which once stood on opposite sides of one of the town’s main thoroughfares — joined together to host a candlelight Christmas Eve service attended by more than 100 people on a warm and breezy Friday night.

After a tornado leveled much of downtown Dec. 10, the service — which took place in a parking lot between the remnants of the two buildings — doubled as a farewell to their once-stately sanctuaries.

Meanwhile, in Bremen, Kentucky, Santa paid a visit as Art ‘Santa Art’ Hoffman loaded up his Prius sleigh with toys and trinkets, donned the bright red overalls he reserves for warm days and made the two-hour trek from Louisville to the tiny town in Muhlenberg County.

JOYFUL VOICES AMID THE RUBBLE:Mayfield, Kentucky, tornado survivors celebrate Christmas Eve

‘HIGHLY COMPLICATING FACTOR’:What role did cell phones play for warehouse workers in last week’s deadly tornadoes?

How can I help Kentucky victims?

The state’s Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, which has raised more than $20 million, will help families who lost loved ones pay for funerals and help uninsured people who lost their homes rebuild.

There are also other fundraisers, donation drives, blood drives and, because this is Kentucky, a bourbon auction.

HOW TO HELP KENTUCKY TORNADO VICTIMS:Donate to relief funds, supplies and blood drives

Contributing: Mary Ramsey and Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal

Follow Ben Tobin on Twitter @Ben__Tobin.


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