Kentucky hardest hit as storms leave dozens dead in 5 states

  • In this aerial photo, a collapsed factory is seen with workers searching for survivors, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Mayfield, Ky., after tornadoes came through the area the previous night.

    In this aerial photo, a collapsed factory is seen with workers searching for survivors, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Mayfield, Ky., after tornadoes came through the area the previous night. Associated Press

  • Dog owner Derrick Starks, left, Chris Buchanan, center and Niki Thompson, right, both from neighboring counties, attempt to rescue Cheyenne from a tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing dozens of people overnight.

    Dog owner Derrick Starks, left, Chris Buchanan, center and Niki Thompson, right, both from neighboring counties, attempt to rescue Cheyenne from a tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing dozens of people overnight. Associated Press

  • Father and son, Kenny Sanford, right, and Colby Sanford, carry out a dresser from Colby's grandmother's tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across several states late Friday, killing multiple people overnight.

    Father and son, Kenny Sanford, right, and Colby Sanford, carry out a dresser from Colby's grandmother's tornado-damaged home in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across several states late Friday, killing multiple people overnight. Associated Press

  • Automobiles line up near debris from tornado damage in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight.

    Automobiles line up near debris from tornado damage in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight. Associated Press

  • Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Damaged property is seen from the air in Dickson County, Tenn., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, after heavy storms hit the area. (George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP)

    Damaged property is seen from the air in Dickson County, Tenn., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, after heavy storms hit the area. (George Walker IV/The Tennessean via AP) Associated Press

  • People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Authorities survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    Authorities survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Damage from a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Ky. on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    Damage from a tornado is seen in downtown Mayfield, Ky. on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • A woman searches for valuables amidst the remnants of a home on Saturday, Dec.11, 2021, on Highway F in Defiance, Mo. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday.  (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

    A woman searches for valuables amidst the remnants of a home on Saturday, Dec.11, 2021, on Highway F in Defiance, Mo. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday. (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP) Associated Press

  • People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Larry Rosenbaum uses his phone and surveys the damage as he stands outside a flattened home along Murrell Rd. after overnight storms that ripped through their community,  Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021 in Dickson Co. , Tenn. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday. (George Walker IV /The Tennessean via AP)

    Larry Rosenbaum uses his phone and surveys the damage as he stands outside a flattened home along Murrell Rd. after overnight storms that ripped through their community, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021 in Dickson Co. , Tenn. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday. (George Walker IV /The Tennessean via AP) Associated Press

  • People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    People survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Authorities survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. (AP Photo/STF

    Authorities survey damage from a tornado is seen in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. (AP Photo/STF Associated Press

  • A family digs through the remains of their apartment in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    A family digs through the remains of their apartment in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight.

    Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. Associated Press

  • A person walks through debris and damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight.

    A person walks through debris and damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight. Associated Press

  • Local firefighters, EMS and first responders check for survivors trapped in homes and vehicles in the neighborhood off Creekwood Avenue in Bowling Green, Ky., early Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021.  Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. (Grace Ramey/Daily News via AP)

    Local firefighters, EMS and first responders check for survivors trapped in homes and vehicles in the neighborhood off Creekwood Avenue in Bowling Green, Ky., early Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states late Friday, killing several people overnight. (Grace Ramey/Daily News via AP) Associated Press

  • A person walks through debris and damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight.

    A person walks through debris and damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight. Associated Press

  • People survey damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight.

    People survey damage from a tornado in Mayfield, Ky., on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across multiple states Friday, killing multiple people overnight. Associated Press

  • Stephanie Muehling comforts a horse that was rescued from inside a collapsed barn after a tornado ripped through the area along Highway F in St. Charles County, Mo., on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Five horses were trapped in the debris, at least three of the horses were pulled out alive. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

    Stephanie Muehling comforts a horse that was rescued from inside a collapsed barn after a tornado ripped through the area along Highway F in St. Charles County, Mo., on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. Five horses were trapped in the debris, at least three of the horses were pulled out alive. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP) Associated Press

  • Firefighters search a debris field that came from a house that was ripped off its foundation and trees were cut off after a tornado ripped along Highway F at the intersection of Stub Road in St. Charles County, Mo., on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped through the middle of the U.S. in a stormfront that killed dozens and tore apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home, derailed a train and smashed an Amazon warehouse. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

    Firefighters search a debris field that came from a house that was ripped off its foundation and trees were cut off after a tornado ripped along Highway F at the intersection of Stub Road in St. Charles County, Mo., on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021. A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped through the middle of the U.S. in a stormfront that killed dozens and tore apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home, derailed a train and smashed an Amazon warehouse. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP) Associated Press

  • This Jan. 28, 2017, satellite photo provided by Maxar shows the county courthouse and other nearby buildings in Mayfield, Ky. Severe storms moved through the area late Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, and caused catastrophic damage across multiple states. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

    This Jan. 28, 2017, satellite photo provided by Maxar shows the county courthouse and other nearby buildings in Mayfield, Ky. Severe storms moved through the area late Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, and caused catastrophic damage across multiple states. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP) Associated Press

  • This Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, satellite photo provided by Maxar shows the county courthouse and other nearby buildings after a tornado caused heavy damage in the area, in Mayfield, Ky. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP)

    This Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, satellite photo provided by Maxar shows the county courthouse and other nearby buildings after a tornado caused heavy damage in the area, in Mayfield, Ky. (Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP) Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/12/2021 8:21 AM

MAYFIELD, Ky. -- A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped across the middle of the U.S. in a stormfront that killed dozens and tore apart a candle factory, crushed a nursing home, derailed a train and smashed an Amazon warehouse.

'I pray that there will be another rescue. I pray that there will be another one or two,' Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said, as crews sifted through the wreckage of the candle factory in Mayfield, where 110 people were working overnight Friday when the storm hit. Forty of them were rescued.

 

'We had to, at times, crawl over casualties to get to live victims,' said Jeremy Creason, the city's fire chief and EMS director.

In Kentucky alone, 22 were confirmed dead by Saturday afternoon, including 11 in and around Bowling Green. But Beshear said upwards of 70 may have been killed when a twister touched down for more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) in his state and that the number of deaths could eventually exceed 100 across 10 or more counties.

The death toll of 36 across five states includes six people in Illinois, where an Amazon facility was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed; and two in Missouri.

If early reports are confirmed, the twister 'will likely go down perhaps as one of the longest track violent tornadoes in United States history,' said Victor Gensini, a researcher on extreme weather at Northern Illinois University.

The longest tornado on record, in March 1925, tracked for about 220 miles (355 kilometers) through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. But Gensini said this twister may have touched down for nearly 250 miles (400 kilometers). The storm was all the more remarkable because it came in December, when normally colder weather limits tornadoes, he said.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees covered the ground in Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 in western Kentucky. Twisted metal sheeting, downed power lines and wrecked vehicles lined the streets. Windows and roofs were blown off the buildings that were still standing.

The missing at the candle factory included Janine Denise Johnson Williams, a 50-year-old mother of four whose family members kept vigil at the site Saturday.

'It's Christmastime and she works at a place that's making candles for gifts," her brother, Darryl Williams, said. 'To give up the gift of life to make a gift. We haven't heard anything, and I'm not presuming anything. But I'm expecting for the worst.'

He said Johnson Williams called her husband overnight to report the weather was getting bad, the last time anyone heard from her.

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, an employee at the factory, was trapped under 5 feet (about 1.5 meters) of debris for at least two hours until rescuers managed to free her.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In an interview with NBC's 'Today,' she said it was 'absolutely the most terrifying' event she had ever experienced. 'I did not think I was going to make it at all.'

Just before the tornado struck, the building's lights flickered. She felt a gust of wind, her ears started popping and then, 'Boom. Everything came down on us.' People started screaming, and she heard other workers praying.

Kentucky State Trooper Sarah Burgess said rescue crews were using heavy equipment to move rubble at the candle factory. Coroners were called to the scene and bodies were recovered, but she didn't know how many. She said it could take a day and potentially longer to remove all of the rubble.

Rescue efforts were complicated because Mayfield's main fire station and emergency services hub were also hit by the tornado, Creason said.

After a wall at a nursing home in Mayfield collapsed, Vernon Evans said he rushed to help firefighters pull people out, only to find one resident lying dead in a few inches of water.

'All I could do is sit there and hold their head up,' he said. 'I never experienced nothing like this.'

President Joe Biden approved an emergency disaster declaration for Kentucky on Saturday and pledged to support the affected states.

'I promise you, whatever is needed - whatever is needed - the federal government is going to find a way to provide it," Biden said.

Six people were killed in the collapse of the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, with another injured worker airlifted to a hospital, fire Chief James Whiteford said.

Investigators searched the rubble throughout the day for additional victims and 45 people survived, Whiteford said. Authorities were uncertain Saturday evening whether anyone was still unaccounted because workers were in the midst of a shift change when it was struck by the tornado about 8:30 p.m. Friday.

'This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners," Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a written statement.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which has been trying to organize workers at an Amazon facility in Alabama, criticized the company for keeping the Illinois site open during a weather emergency.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson's office said the storms killed at least two people in the state and initial assessments indicate they destroyed or did major damage to hundreds of homes and buildings.

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.

'This was an incredible storm that lasted a long time and covered a lot of territory,' said Larry Vannozzi, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office covering the Nashville area.

Meteorologists haven't determined whether the storm spawned a single tornado or multiple tornadoes, he said.

In Arkansas, a tornado struck a nursing home in Monette, killing one and trapping 20 people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told The Associated Press.

Another person died when the storm hit a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

'Probably the most remarkable thing is that there's not a greater loss of life,' Hutchinson said after touring the wreckage of the nursing home. 'It is catastrophic. It's a total destruction.'

Gov. Bill Lee on Saturday toured tornado-torn parts of western Tennessee in which four people had been killed.

Lee traveled to Tiptonville and then Dresden, a small town of about 3,000 that saw its downtown corridor ripped to shreds.

"This is about the saddest thing I've ever seen,' said Lee, who has had three fatal tornadoes rip through the state during his first term in office. 'The whole town, the whole town.'

___

Dylan Lovan in Mayfield, Seth Borenstein in Washington, D.C.; Travis Loller in Nashville, Tennessee; Kimberlee Kruesi in Dresden, Tennessee; John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; and Jeff McMurray in Chicago contributed to this report. Salter reported from O'Fallon, Missouri.

___

This story has been edited to correct the name of a researcher on extreme weather. He is Victor Gensini, not Victor Genzini.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.