Thousands Are Without Heat and Water in Kentucky After Tornadoes Kill Dozens

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Residents of Kentucky counties where tornadoes killed dozens of people could be without heat, water or electricity in frigid temperatures for weeks or longer, state officials warned Monday, as the toll of damage and deaths came into clearer focus in five states slammed by the swarm of twisters.

Kentucky authorities said the sheer level of destruction was hindering their ability to tally the damage from Friday night’s storms. At least 88 people — including 74 in Kentucky — were killed by the tornado outbreak that also destroyed a nursing home in Arkansas, heavily damaged an Amazon distribution center in Illinois and spread its deadly effects into Tennessee and Missouri.
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As Kentucky continued to search for missing persons, the efforts were also directed at repairing and sheltering homes that had been destroyed, and providing drinking water.

“We’re not going to let any of our families go homeless,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear stated that state parks lodges were used for shelter.

Mayfield, one the worst-hit towns, saw survivors face a high of 50s temperatures and a low of below freezing Monday without power.

“Our infrastructure is so damaged. There is no water. It was destroyed by the water tower. Our wastewater management was lost, and there’s no natural gas to the city. So we have nothing to rely on there,” Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan said on ”CBS Mornings.” “So that is purely survival at this point for so many of our people.”

Midwest Tornadoes
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert The destruction caused by tornadoes in Mayfield, Ky. can be seen in this aerial photograph. reported that nearly half of Mayfield’s 26,000 residents and businesses were without power. Michael Dossett from Kentucky Emergency Management said that more than 10,000 households and businesses don’t have water. Another 17,000 residents are on boil-water advisory.

Kentucky suffered the most severe damage from the tornado cluster that swept through several states. This is remarkable considering they occurred at the time when the weather was cold and normally restricts tornadoes. Beshear Monday said that at least 74 people were killed in Kentucky, giving the first official count.

Kevin Kirby from Warren County, Kentucky said that 11 people died in Bowling Green while walking down the same street. He also stated that two children were among five bodies found near the residence.

Beshear said that it might take several days to determine the exact death toll. Door-todoor searches are not possible in certain places.

“With this amount of damage and rubble, it may be a week or even more before we have a final count on the number of lost lives,” the governor said.

Initial fears that 70 were dead at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle plant were unfounded. However, the company announced Sunday that 8 deaths had been confirmed, eight were still missing and more than 90 were found. Bob Ferguson, a company spokesperson, stated that employees assembled in a tornado shelter before leaving the site. They were difficult to reach due to the outage of the telephone service.

On Monday evening, Louisville Emergency Management Director E.J. Meiman told a news conference Monday evening that everyone inside the building had been evacuated during Hurricane Irene.

“We have a high level of confidence that nobody is left in this building,” Meiman said. Meiman said that the death toll at the factory had not increased.

Mayfield was a town of approximately 10,000 people in western Kentucky. It had a lot of debris, including shredded trees and buildings that were destroyed. The streets were lined with wrecked cars, downed powerlines and twisted sheet metal. The buildings left standing were destroyed by windows and their roofs were torn away.

Authorities said that five twisters struck Kentucky, one of which had a long route of approximately 200 miles (322.2 kilometers).

The deaths of six Kentucky residents were not the only result of the tornadoes. There was also a death toll from the Amazon Distribution Center in Edwardsville, Illinois. Four people died in Tennessee. Two in Arkansas. Arkansas workers saved the residents by shielding them with their bodies. Missouri had two.

Monday was the announcement of the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that they have opened an investigation into collapse at Amazon Warehouse in Illinois.

Amazon’s Kelly Nantel said the Illinois warehouse was “constructed consistent with code.” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said there would be an investigation into updating code “given serious change in climate that we are seeing across the country” that appears to factor into stronger tornadoes.

Near Mayfield, nearly 67 people spent Sunday evening at Wingo’s church, which was serving as shelter for the homeless. 40 additional were due to arrive on Monday. Many of the people who were displaced will need to live in a permanent place. Organizers are trying to locate a mobile laundry truck and an outdoor shower. As well as immediate necessities like socks and underwear, volunteers were also available to help.

Midwest Tornadoes
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert Mayfield Consumer Products Factory volunteers help to salvage Martha Thomas’s possessions after the tornadoes devastated the area several days before. This was in Mayfield Ky. on Monday, December 13, 2021.

Cynthia Gargis (51), a Mayfield resident for many years, has moved in with her daughter. The shelter was her way of helping friends and visiting with them who had lost their homes.

“I don’t know, I don’t see how we’ll ever get over this,” she said. “It won’t ever be the same.”

Glynda Glover, age 82, stated that she did not know how much time she would spend at Wingo. She said her apartment became uninhabitable after the wind covered it in asphalt and glass.

“I’ll stay here until we get back to whatever normal is,” she said, “and I don’t know what normal is anymore.”

Dawson Springs was another area that was devastated by storms. Homes were left in rubble, trees fell, and littered the land for at least one mile.

“It looks like a bomb went off. It’s just completely destroyed in areas,” said Jack Whitfield Jr., the Hopkins County judge-executive.

He estimated that more than 60% of the town, including hundreds of homes, was “beyond repair.”

“A full recovering is going to take years,” he said.

Tim Morgan, a volunteer chaplain for the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Department, said he’s seen the aftermath of tornadoes and hurricanes before, but nothing like this.

“Just absolute decimation. There is an entire hillside of houses that are 3 feet tall now,” he said.


Schreiner reported in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Kristin Hale in Mayfield, Seth Borenstein Zeke Miller and Dino Hazell were Associated Press reporters. Rebecca Reynolds in Louisville and Kentucky and Jonathan Drew in Durham (North Carolina) and John Raby, Charleston, West Virginia contributed to this report.



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