Kentucky’s governor says 100 people may be dead after a massive tornado tore across the state overnight. That death toll would be in addition to those lost in Missouri, Arkansas and other states.
The tornadoes were embedded in severe storms that raced across the midwest and upper south late Friday night and continue to move east Saturday morning. States hit overnight include Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Tornado warnings remain in effect for numerous states Saturday.
Several large buildings, filled with hundreds of individuals, were totally destroyed including a candle factory in Kentucky, an Amazon facility in Illinois, a nursing home in Arkansas and others. That’s in addition to hunreds, if not thousands, of homes, businesses and other structures.
On Saturday morning, meteorologists say most of the damage was along a 200-mile path from just one twister which would make it one of the longest and most destructive in American history.
— Brian Emfinger (@brianemfinger) December 11, 2021
Many people were feared dead at the factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, where Gov. Andy Beshear called the situation “tragic” at a news conference Saturday morning. Beshear said up to 100 people are likely dead in his state alone.
“There were about 110 people in it at the time that the tornado hit it,” Beshear said. “We believe we’ll lose at least dozens of those individuals. It’s very hard, really tough, and we’re praying for each and every one of those families.”
At least 100 emergency vehicles descended upon the Amazon warehouse near Edwardsville, Illinois, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of St. Louis, where a wall that was about the length of a football field collapsed, as did the roof above it.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many people were hurt, but one person was flown by helicopter to a hospital. Thousands of shipping packages, likely filled with holiday shopping, were likely sucked up by the wind. Video shows boxes strewn across the local landscape.
Reports of damage across multiple counties tonight. This is the Graves County Courthouse in Mayfield. PLEASE stay weather aware and keep our communities in your thoughts. #kywx pic.twitter.com/Tw9FsjLSH7
— KEMA (@KentuckyEMA) December 11, 2021
Rescue crews were still sorting through the rubble to determine if anyone was trapped inside. Fillback said the process would last for several more hours. Cranes and backhoes were brought in to help move debris.
“Please be patient with us. Our fire personnel are doing everything they can to reunite everyone with their loved ones,” Fillback said on KMOV-TV.
The Belleville News-Democrat reported that the Amazon fulfillment center in Edwardsville opened with two warehouses in 2016, with 1.5 million square feet of space. The warehouses are used to store items until they are shipped to mail-order customers.
Three storm-related deaths were confirmed in Tennessee, said Dean Flener, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Two of the deaths occurred in Lake County, and the third was in Obion County—both in the northwestern corner of the state.
The storm started in Arkansas where a tornado struck the Monette Manor nursing home killing one person and trapping 20 elderly people inside as the building completely collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day said.
Five people had serious injuries, and a few others had minor ones, he said. The nursing home has 86 beds.
Day said another nursing home about 20 miles (32 kilometers) away in Truman was badly damaged but no injuries were reported. The residents were being evacuated because the building is unsafe.
— melissa moon (@MMoon_WREG3) December 11, 2021
Workers at a National Weather Service office had to take shelter as a tornado passed near their office in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west of St. Louis. A tornado touched down near Route 94 and Highway F in Defiance, Missouri, around 8:00 p.m. Two of the people injured during the storm were taken to local trauma centers. One of them sustained life-threatening injuries and did not survive.
In Kentucky, several buildings collapsed during the severe weather that struck Mayfield, said Sarah Burgess, a trooper with the Kentucky State Police.
She said several people were trapped inside a damaged candle factory and that a shift was ongoing when the storm hit.
“The entire building is essentially leveled,” she said.
Farther east in Bowling Green, Western Kentucky University said on Twitter that emergency crews were assessing significant storm damage and that no injuries were immediately reported. However, the school called off commencement ceremonies that were planned for Saturday because the campus was without power.
–Associated Press and other services