Dozens are feared dead after tornadoes and severe weather wreaked havoc Friday night and Saturday morning in multiple states, including Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas. Rescue crews are still sorting through rubble.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he expects more than 70 deaths amid a path of destruction throughout western Kentucky in what he called the deadliest tornado event in state history. He said the tornado touched down for 227 miles, mostly in his state.
“I’m now certain that number is north of 70, and it may exceed 100 before the day is over,” said during a Saturday morning press conference. He called the situation “indescribable.”
Elsewhere, officials reported fatalities after severe weather tore through an Amazon facility in Illinois and tornado ravaged a nursing home in Arkansas.
As rescue efforts continue, the tragedy is expected to appear more grave.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite imagery shows many tornadoes were reported across six states. Beshear said four tornadoes touched down in Kentucky, with most of the destruction coming from the longest tornado.
In Arkansas late Friday night, a tornado struck the 86-bed Monette Manor nursing home, killing one person and trapping close to two dozen people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told the Associated Press.
Five people are reported to have serious injuries, he said.
At least one person has died after severe weather ripped the roof off an Amazon facility about 25 miles east of St. Louis in Edwardsville, Illinois, police Chief Mike Fillback told reporters Saturday morning. A wall about the length of a football field collapsed, he said. Two injured people from the facility were flown to hospitals by helicopter.
In Tennessee, three have been confirmed dead in the northwest part of the state, emergency management officials confirmed.
During a press conference Saturday morning, officials said about 40 people have been rescued from the leveled candle factory in Mayfield, Graves County. The death toll is expected to increase.
“The structure is just a pile of bent metal and steel,” Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason said. “We had to, at times, crawl over causalities to get to live victims to get them out.”
Around 110 people were in the facility at the time of the tornado, Gov. Beshear said. Cars were atop the flattened building, he said, along with heavy machinery and metal drums, ones with “corrosive chemicals.”
“It’s pretty awful to witness,” he said.
“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history, and for those that have seen it, what it’s done here in Graves County and elsewhere, it is indescribable,” he said. “The level of devastation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”
The governor said he expects the death to reach 100 “before the day is over.”
Early damage reports come in overnight
Gov. Beshear said there would be fatalities reported in Graves, Marshall, Warren and Hopkins counties, adding he would “be surprised if we don’t lose people in at least five or more counties.”
In Arkansas, Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told KAIT-TV early Saturday that a woman died inside a Dollar General about five miles northeast of Monette in Leachville.
At least one person has died after severe weather ripped the roof off an Amazon facility about 25 miles east of St. Louis in Edwardsville, Illinois, police Chief Mike Fillback told reporters Saturday morning, according to the Associated Press. A wall about the length of a football field collapsed, he said.
Workers at a National Weather Service office took shelter as a tornado passed by the center in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles west of St. Louis.
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Death toll in Kentucky could be historic
Beshear said he expects “at least dozens” of fatalities from a candle factory’s roof collapse in Mayfield, Kentucky, where roughly 110 employees were working when the tornado hit the small, western Kentucky town just after 10:30 p.m. EST.
According to the National Weather Services, the deadliest tornado event in state history occurred in Jefferson County in 1890, when 76 Kentuckians were killed.
Just over 70 in Kentucky were killed by a super outbreak of tornadoes across several states in 1974.
The governor declared a state of emergency before midnight, activating the National Guard and deploying about 200 guard members — including search and extraction and debris clearance personnel — who will arrive in affected communities Saturday morning.
“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,” Beshear said. “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, we are praying for you.”
Contributing: The Associated Press