KENTUCKY — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said tornadoes in the state killed at least 70 people, and he fears the final death toll will exceed100.
“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” Beshear said at a news conference Saturday morning.
Severe storms moved through the area Friday night and caused catastrophic damage. Beshear said one tornado stayed on the ground for 227 miles.
Photos and videos from the southwestern Kentucky community of Mayfield show leveled homes, mangled vehicles, uprooted trees and a courthouse steeple sheered off.
Beshear said a collapse at a candle factory in Mayfield has resulted in "mass casualties."
The National Guard is responding to the region to help with rescue and recovery efforts.
The Graves County Emergency Management Office told WPSD that Mayfield High School is opening up a shelter for people affected by the storm. Residents who can safely walk there are also being told they can go to Fire Station 1 on East Broadway Street.
Saturday morning, President Joe Biden said he was briefed on the storms.
"To lose a loved one in a storm like this is an unimaginable tragedy," he said in a tweet. "We’re working with governors to ensure they have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue."
In addition to the deaths in Mayfield, authorities in the Bowling Green area say 11 people were killed when a tornado roared through town.
Western Kentucky University called off commencement ceremonies that were planned for Saturday because the campus was without power.
Kentucky was one of several states that were hit by tornadoes and severe weather Friday and early Saturday morning. CNN reports that nearly 100 people are dead across five states.