Tornadoes killed as many as 100 people in Kentucky and an undetermined number at an Amazon.com warehouse in Illinois, prompting President Joe Biden to offer federal help.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency, activated the National Guard and asked Biden for an emergency declaration in the aftermath of storms that killed people in at least four states.
Beshear said at a press conference early Saturday that fatalities in the state could be as high as 100, chiefly from a candle factory in Mayfield, Graves County, that collapsed.
“It’s really hard, it’s really tough and we are praying for each and everyone of those families,” he said.
Biden said the federal government is working with governors to “ensure they have what they need.”
The National Weather Service warned that nighttime tornadoes “are particularly dangerous” since people may not be listening for severe weather warnings.
Damage will easily be in the hundreds of millions, if not $1 billion, said Chuck Watson, a catastrophe modeler with Enki Research.
Multiple additional incidents have been reported from four tornadoes to touch down in Kentucky. Thousands of homes in the state were left without power.
The storms may be the state’s deadliest since a super outbreak in 1974, and it might be the largest area struck since 1925, Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management said in the briefing. “Rescues and search efforts are ongoing.”
The storms ripped across an area 200 miles long, Dossett said.
Graves County, in the state’s far southwest, bordering Tennessee, was the hardest hit among about 19 countries to experience storm damage.
In Illinois, part of the roof and wall collapsed at a large Amazon fulfillment site near Edwardsville, northeast of St. Louis.
The Edwardsville police department reported “catastrophic damage” to a significant portion of the structure and “confirmed fatalities.”
Local media reported at least one death, citing the Edwardsville police chief.
Three storm-related deaths were confirmed in Tennessee, according to the state’s emergency management authorities.
At least two people were reported dead in Arkansas, where Gov. Asa Hutchinson said a tornado touched down in Mississippi County, north of Memphis, Tennessee.
Across seven states, 333,957 customers were without power, according to PowerOutage.us.
A flash flood warning is in place across southern Kentucky, where tornadoes also stuck earlier this week, the National Weather Service said. The south fork of the Little River in Hopkinsville, Kentucky rose more than 10 feet from just after midnight to 6:30 a.m. local time.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell released a statement that said he is “praying for the lives lost and communities” impacted by the tornadoes and that he “will work with the entire Kentucky federal delegation to support” Beshear’s request for federal assistance.
Consumer chief of Amazon Dave Clark tweeted his “thoughts and prayers going out to our team in Edwardsville.”
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