After several tornadoes tore through western Kentucky late Friday night, 74 people are confirmed dead according to Gov. Andy Beshear. Around 109 people are still missing, but Beshear said he expects that number is actually higher.
Beshear said they have identified 69 of those victims, though many of those identifications have not yet been released while families are being contacted.
Teams are still combing the rubble in several counties throughout western Kentucky and Beshear said he still expects that death toll to rise.
On Saturday, Beshear said he feared the death toll from the tornadoes would surpass 100, but more recent numbers have shown that there were not as many fatalities at a destroyed candle factory in Mayfield as previously estimated.
On Monday, owners of the factory told Beshear that 94 workers in the factory are currently accountable; 8 workers are among the confirmed dead and 8 are still missing.
In all, 88 people total are confirmed dead as a result of the tornadoes:
- 74 in Kentucky
- 6 in Illinois
- 4 in Tennessee
- 2 in Arkansas
- 2 in Missouri
Beshear said the Western Kentucky Allied Services Building, or the Community Action Building, was damaged so badly that it can no longer prepare meals for seniors who have been relying on them since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department for Aging and Independent Living reached out for assistance among the community and Beshear said within 20 minutes of the request, over 2,300 shelf-stable meals were committed.
Those meals will be delivered to 300 homebound seniors in Graves County and more work is being done to secure additional meals.
To alleviate the need for housing, state parks have opened to help families who have lost their homes. Beshear said they are guaranteeing those families a two-week stay so that victims can turn their focus on their relatives, children and other needs instead of worrying about housing. The parks are accepting donations of washers and dryers for electrical hookups for victims staying in the parks.
Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, said it's now confirmed that at least 5 tornadoes hit the region, including one tornado that traveled roughly 200 miles and left the town of Mayfield, Ky. devastated.
The National Weather Service has not yet released its findings on the storms, but a spokesperson said Sunday the damage surveyed so far indicates at least one tornado was at least an EF-3. The NWS defines an EF-3 tornado as severe, with winds of 136-165 mph.
An aerial survey conducted by the NWS showed the tornado's track was continuous from south of Case, Ky., in Fulton County all the way to at least Beaver Dam, Ky., in Ohio County when the crew turned around.
On Saturday, the governor announced the creation of a fund to help pay for aid and rebuilding efforts in communities. By Monday evening, the account had received 44,358 donations totaling well over $6 million, Beshear said. The fund will go directly to victims of the tornadoes, starting with covering funeral expenses.
On Monday, first lady Britainy Beshear announced, while wiping away tears, that she was launching a toy drive to get children and teens affected by the devastation gifts for the holiday season. Starting Tuesday, people can drop off new, unwrapped gifts for kids of any age at locations across the state until Saturday, Dec. 18. In lieu of toys, they'll also accept donations of $25 gift cards, but Britainy said it's preferred that gift cards remain at lower amounts so they're easier to distribute evenly for families.
Kentuckians who have already started a toy drive of their own can take their donations to one of the dropoff locations available, and state officials will transport them to western Kentucky where they can be distributed.
Do not wrap gifts, Britainy said, so those collecting them know what the gifts are and can better determine what kids will best enjoy them. The drive is not accepting clothing at this time.
Watch the full press conference below: