74 confirmed dead from historic tornado storm in Kentucky

The largest tornado lasted for hours with a maximum width of nearly a mile and the longest suspected touchdown in U.S. history.
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 9:47 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 10:57 AM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MAYFIELD, Ky. (WXIX) - Kentucky’s death count from the weekend’s devastating tornado event stands at 74 as of Monday afternoon. The number is expected to grow in the coming days.

The ages of those who died ranged from five months to 86 years old, and the victims include six children, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.

So far just eight are confirmed dead from the candle factory collapse in Mayfield, which the governor described as a “Christmas miracle” given that more than a hundred were said to be inside the factory when the tornado struck.

Some 109 Kentuckians remain unaccounted for, though Beshear in a Monday afternoon press briefing said the actual number is likely much higher.

Still 26,500 homes in western and central Kentucky are without power.

Kentucky Emergency Management on Monday confirmed a fifth tornado by radar signature.

The largest tornado, which originated in Arkansas before tearing through Kentucky, had a touchdown of 227 miles and a maximum width of three-quarters of a mile.

Radar confirmed tornadoes in Kentucky from the weekend's devastating storms.
Radar confirmed tornadoes in Kentucky from the weekend's devastating storms.(Kentucky Department of Emergency Management)

Beshear said he suspects the tornado will be designated an F4 or F5. Previously he called it the deadliest tornado in Kentucky history and speculated it will end up as the longest and deadliest tornado event in U.S. history as well.

An F4 tornado has wind speeds above 207 mph. F5 tornadoes have maximum winds above 261 mph.

A comprehensive damage estimate and final tornado rating are several days out as world-class experts arrived in Kentucky Monday to assist the National Weather Service’s Paducah Post with surveys.

NWS Tornado Survey Update
NWS Tornado Survey Update(National Weather Service)

At least 30 tornadoes were reported across six states Friday night and early Saturday. The states include Kentucky as well as Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

The governor ordered flags in Kentucky to be lowered to half staff starting sunrise Dec. 14 for the next week to honor victims of the tornadoes.

Thousands of houses and businesses were damaged. It could be weeks before the state has a final count of the extent of the damage in 20 counties.

Several states have activated their task forces to help in search efforts, including Ohio.

Currently, 448 National Guard members are in the field in Kentucky, including 95 doing fatality searches.

Four FEMA urban search and rescue teams are also in the field with canine search teams, or what the governor described as “cadaver dogs.”

MORE: President Biden to visit Kentucky | Destruction in Bowling Green | How you can help

The video shows a tornado moving through the area between Bremen and Sacramento, Kentucky.

Biden will visit Kentucky this week.

The White House said the president plans to travel to Fort Campbell, Mayfield and Dawson Springs on Wednesday.

Beshear declared an immediate state of emergency early Saturday and activated over 180 Kentucky National Guard members as well as the Kentucky State Police.

He requested and received a Federal Disaster Declaration from President Joe Biden over the weekend. Beshear said this was the fastest response from the federal government in the history of the United States.

The disaster declaration will provide federal assistance for the state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, and tornadoes, the White House said in a news release.

Federal funding is available to tornado victims in the following counties: Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor, and Warren.

Seven Kentucky state parks are providing emergency housing and food to those impacted by Friday’s storms. Those who live in Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Lyon, Marshall and Muhlenberg counties will receive priority replacement, Beshear said.

Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.

Federal funding also is available to the state, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in the damaged areas.

Beshear said they will provide each family with $5,000 in burial costs for any relative lost. They also are asking funeral homes not to charge families beyond that.

See a spelling or grammar error in our story? Please include the title when you click here to report it.

Copyright 2021 WXIX. All rights reserved.