Kentucky was devastated overnight Saturday as four tornadoes, including a massive storm that flattened much of Mayfield and several other towns, ripped through the commonwealth.
The system, which reportedly spawned at least one tornado in other parts of the South and Midwest, was forecast to bring a threat of damage to the area through the early hours of the morning. And it brought damage to much of the western portion of the state, as well as causing power outages throughout Kentucky.
Read more:Where did Kentucky tornadoes hit? See damage by county
Here are the latest updates:
5:30 p.m.: Kentucky basketball holds moment of silence
Kentucky basketball memorialized those who died in the tornadoes and honored all those affected with a moment of silence before their game at Notre Dame Saturday evening.
Photos shared during the game broadcast also showed the team gathering to pray and light candles at The Grotto, a replica of a French shrine on Notre Dame’s campus.
5 p.m.: New fund to support victims now taking donations
At a press conference Saturday afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear gave some advice to those who want to help victims of the Kentucky tornado.
First, he said, stay off the roads if possible. Second, give blood.
And third, Beshear said, give money to a new fund set up by the state to support victims, the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, at teamwkyrelieffund.ky.gov.
Ways to give:Want to help Kentucky communities affected by the tornadoes? Here’s how
Beshear was speaking in Bowling Green, where he said he believes at least 10 people were killed following a storm that meteorologist John Gordon called “the worst case scenario.” The death toll would like rise into double digits in multiple counties, Beshear added, including Muhlenberg, Hopkins, Marshall and Graves, where a large candle production factory filled with workers collapsed.
“One hundred ten people working in it at the time the storm hit – they rescued 40,” Beshear said. “At least 15 feet of metal with cars on top of it, barrels of corrosive chemicals were there. It’ll be a miracle if anybody else is found alive.”
4:30 p.m.: Federal emergency disaster declaration approved
President Joe Biden on Saturday approved Kentucky’s request for an emergency disaster declaration.
The move authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts and provide assistance to save lives and protect property, public health and safety in the following counties: Breckenridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hickman, Hopkins, Lyon, Meade, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer and Warren.
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4: p.m.: Warren County closing schools next week
Warren County Public Schools is canceling classes Monday and Tuesday, district spokeswoman Lauren Thurmond confirmed to The Courier Journal on Saturday afternoon.
As of Saturday afternoon, there were at least 11 people killed in Warren County by the tornado, coroner Kevin Kirby confirmed to the Bowling Green Daily News.
3 p.m.: Moving forward in Taylor County
One person was confirmed to have been killed overnight in Taylor County, with others injured and countless homes destroyed.
The western Kentucky county was placed under a tornado warning just before 3 a.m. and within 25 minutes, 911 calls began to roll in, said Scott Chelf, Deputy Director of the Campbellsville – Taylor County Emergency Communications Center.
The devastation largely centered around State Highway 527, known as Saloma Road. Emergency personnel responded to calls finding structural damage and in some cases, total collapses. Additionally, multiple people with non-life threatening injuries were taken to the Taylor Regional Hospital, Chelf said.
Details regarding the person who died were not available, he said.
In the aftermath of the storm, the lawns of demolished homes along Feather Creek and Pleasant Hill Church Roads were filled with those trying to clean up scattered debris.
As two women roamed a field with laundry baskets, picking up articles of clothing that’d been torn from homes, Anthony Parker worked to pick through the cinder blocks of what was once his basement.
His home, along with three vehicles, were a complete loss.
He was at work when the storm hit, while his wife, three children, neighbors and a few others huddled inside the basement.
“It took the top half of the house off, then turned around and took off the floor,” Parker said.
2 p.m.: Candle factory destroyed, leaving “dozens” dead
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he believes “at least dozens” of workers at a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, were killed in a roof collapse when a tornado struck Friday evening — part of what could turn out the be the deadliest tornado event in state history.
“There were about 110 people in it at the time that the tornado hit it,” Beshear said at a 5 a.m. briefing. “We believe we’ll lose at least dozens of those individuals. It’s very hard. Really tough. And we’re praying for each and every one of those families.”
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1:30 p.m.: Beshear speaks with Biden amid push for federal aid
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed Saturday afternoon that he’d spoken with President Joe Biden about the devastating tornadoes, along with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell.
A readout of the call provided by the White House said the president expressed his condolences and “indicated that he has directed FEMA and other Federal agencies to provide the speediest assistance possible to impacted communities.” The two sides will remain in touch, the White House said.
Kentucky’s two senators and six representatives in Congress, meanwhile, sent a letter to the White House encouraging Biden and other federal officials to provide additional assistance, noting that at least 50 deaths have been reported. The National Guard and Kentucky State Police have been mobilized, the letter noted, but storm damage has hampered their response.
12:30 p.m.: Judge dies during storm
Brian Crick, a district judge who served McLean and Muhlenberg counties, was among the victims, according to Kentucky Supreme Court Justice John Minton.
In a statement, Minton said Crick “lost his life during the storm,” in a “shocking loss for his family, his community and the court system.”
“I have asked our justices, judges, circuit court clerks and AOC managers to try to determine the safety of any court staff in Western Kentucky, and what we can do to help any who need shelter, food or clothing,” he added.
11:20 a.m.: Beshear expects death toll to pass 100
The death toll from the storm that ripped through Kentucky last night could be worse than initially believed, Gov. Andy Beshear said at a morning press conference in Mayfield.
Beshear at around 5 a.m. estimated that the death toll would climb past 50 and would likely fall between 70 and 100 casualties. At a press conference six hours later, he said he now believes more than 100 people may have been killed.
Beshear added that he’s been told by officials with the White House and Office of Homeland Security that additional resources will be directed to Kentucky to help deal with the aftermath of the damage.
The governor is scheduled to speak again at 1 p.m. in Dawson Springs.
10 a.m.: Coroners’ mass fatality team heads to Western Kentucky
The Kentucky Coroners Association is assembling its mass fatality team .
Jimmy Pollard – the coroner for Henry County and spokesman for the statewide association – told The Courier Journal a group of 15 coroners and deputy coroners has set up a staging area in Madisonville, a city of 18,317 in Hopkins County that was in the path of the deadliest tornado to touch down in the state.
More tornado coverage:A massive tornado ripped through Kentucky for more than 200 miles. Here’s its path.
Madisonville is 90 miles northeast of Mayfield, the town that appears to have been hit the hardest in the state, including a candle factory where Gov. Andy Beshear said “at least dozens” may have died when the facility was flattened.
The state’s mass fatality team is made up of roughly 150 coroners and deputy coroners from around Kentucky, designed to deploy quickly to deadly disasters too large for local officials to handle and provide resources like PPE, body bags or refrigerated trailers.
Pollard said the team will do whatever the local coroner wants it to do, whether it be recovery or transport, though he thought it would be mostly recovery.
9 a.m.: Beshear plans multiple updates on damage across state
Beshear is planning to hold multiple press conferences in Western Kentucky on Saturday in the aftermath of the devastating overnight tornadoes.
Beshear is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. in Graves County – the home of Mayfield, which suffered massive losses – and will speak again at 12 p.m. in Hopkins County, where his father was born. (Both starting times are listed in Central time.)
Beshear first spoke in a press conference at 5 a.m., where he said the death toll would pass 50 and would likely land between 70 and 100. He later joined NBC’s Today show, describing “a real tough morning in Kentucky” and noting it had been difficult so far to assess the damage.
“Morning will show us a lot more,” Beshear said. “At least one of our towns (is) totally devastated. But we’re strong, we’re resilient. We will grieve, but we will rebuild.”
7 a.m.: Tens of thousands without power
Around 56,000 people were without power in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s massive tornado event, Gov. Andy Beshear said.
The hardest-hit areas were in Western Kentucky, where a tornado that traveled more than 200 miles. Outage numbers from some counties were unavailable as of 7 a.m., but Beshear’s presentation cited Hopkins, Muhlenberg and Ohio counties as among the hardest hit.
Louisville was spared the devastation of the tornado but was still impacted by strong winds and storms through the night. Just over 22,000 people in the Louisville area were without power as of about 7 a.m., according to LG&E.
5 a.m.: Beshear: Death toll could reach 70-100
In an address at 5 a.m. Saturday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll from the overnight tornado would likely reach at least 50, and could climb even higher.
“Remember, each of these lives are children of God, irreplaceable to their families and their communities,” he said. “We will make it through this. We will rebuild. We are strong, resilient people.”
Beshear’s estimates were preliminary, he noted. State officials likely wouldn’t be able to assess the damage until daybreak.
It’s likely to go down as “the most significant tornado event in Kentucky’s history,” though, he said. Four likely tornadoes hit multiple counties across the state, with one single storm ripping through southwestern Tennessee and the western half of the Bluegrass State.
The death toll from the overnight tornado could surpass that of the infamous 1974 tornado that hit Louisville, according to Michael Dossett, director of the state’s Division of Emergency Management.
National Guard members have been deployed to help those who have been impacted, Beshear said, along with officials with the state’s Transportation Cabinet, Division of Forestry and Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services.
Significant damage is believed to have occurred in several counties, Beshear said. Graves County and Mayfield may have been hit the hardest – social media posts published soon after the storm showed substantial damage in that town’s downtown area – and Beshear cited other locations such as Fulton, Hickman, Marshall, Lyon Caldwell, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Breckenridge, Bullitt, Spencer, Shelby, Christian, Logan, Warren, Edmonson, Taylor, and Marion counties that have likely been affected.
“It’ll be daybreak before we even realize the full magnitude of this event,” Dossett said.
2:30 a.m.: Power outages in Louisville
Almost 900 customers were without power in Jefferson County just after 2 a.m., LG&E’s outage map showed.
Statewide, LG&E was reporting more than 20,000 customers without power, including many in western parts of the state.
1 a.m.: ‘Loss of life expected” in western Kentucky, KSP reports
“Loss of life is expected” in western Kentucky amid reports of extensive storm damage, Kentucky State Police said in social media post just before 1 a.m. Saturday.
“Significant damage” from “a severe tornado event that spreads across multiple counties” has been reported by KSP’s post in Mayfield, the post said.
In a video posted to social media, Gov. Andy Beshear said state officials expect “multiple fatalities” in connection with the weather.
12:30 a.m.: Beshear declares state of emergency
Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency just after midnight, according to a social media post from his official account, “based on major tornado damage in multiple Western Kentucky counties.”
Kentucky State Police and Kentucky National Guard units have also been activated in response to the storm, the post said.
Background:Will severe thunderstorms in Kentucky bring tornadoes? What to know
The governor and emergency management officials will provide an update at 5 a.m. Saturday.
“We are praying for our Western Kentucky families,” the post concluded.
11 p.m.: Storm damage reported in Mayfield, Kentucky
Comments from officials and local media reports indicated the town of Mayfield, Kentucky, and nearby areas suffered damage from a reported tornado late Friday.
The impacts include, according to reporters in western Kentucky, damage to the Graves County Courthouse.
Graves County and Mayfield “have been hit really hard,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a video posted to social media.
“This is going to be some of the worst tornado damage we’ve seen in a long time,” he said.
9 p.m.: Kentuckiana under tornado watch
Much of Kentuckiana, including Jefferson County, was set to be under a tornado watch from Friday evening until at least 3 a.m. Saturday, the National Weather Service said.
A tornado watch means conditions indicate tornadoes are possible.
Tornado warnings, which indicate a tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar, were issued in other parts of Kentucky late Friday and early Saturday.
Localized flooding was also possible, National Weather Service meteorologists said earlier Friday.
Lucas Aulbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 502-582-4649 or on Twitter @LucasAulbach.