Recovery and cleanup continue a week after dozens of tornadoes tore through nine states in the South and Midwest, leaving heartbreaking destruction in their wake.
At least 93 people were killed across five states after a severe, late-season outbreak of tornadoes touched down Friday evening through Saturday morning last week, leveling entire blocks and devastating communities during the holidays.
n hard-hit Kentucky, at least 78 people were killed, Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday, updating the death toll by one from the day before. The tally could be 75, he noted, as officials work to confirm three deaths, though for now he believes it stands at 78
In one bit of “good news,” all missing people are now accounted for, Beshear said Saturday.
“Our hope is that means we won’t see many, maybe any more deaths,” he said during a press briefing. “But remember, there are still a number of people in the hospital. I don’t have a report on how significant injuries are, so it could grow.”
At least one person lost their life in the cleanup, he added.
It was the most destructive storm in most Kentuckians’ lifetimes, after a massive EF-4 tornado tore through western Kentucky with winds up to 190 mph, traveling for over 163 miles.
Over 1,000 homes were destroyed, according to Beshear, with the tight-knit communities of Mayfield and Dawson Springs among the hardest hit. But the state is resilient, he stressed.
“We’re gonna dig out. We’re still digging out,” he said. “We’re gonna clean up, and that’s started in some places. And we’re going to rebuild both structures and lives.”
Some 944 displaced Kentuckians are being housed at state parks and hotels, with shelters at Kentucky Dam Village and Pennyrile state parks full, Beshear said Saturday. Countless others are staying with family and friends as well, he noted.
Hundreds of homes remain without power as of Saturday, and some communities are on a boil water advisory, Beshear said.
The recovery effort has been hampered by rain that has hammered the state in recent days.
“The rain that’s hit western Kentucky in the last day-and-a-half is just mean,” Beshear said. “It’s really hard to understand how they could get hit with a tornado the likes of which we have never seen, and then it dumps rain on them as they’re trying to dig out.”
“We are in pain and we are knocked down, but we’re not broken,” he added.
Some 1,300 Kentucky state workers and National Guard members have been mobilized to areas hit by the storms, and over 700 Federal Emergency Management Agency workers were on the ground this week aiding cleanup efforts in the state. FEMA has provided Kentucky with some 74,000 meals, 18,500 blankets and 1,500 tarps, White House officials said.