Preliminary investigations indicate that four tornadoes may have struck the state, including one that potentially remained on the ground for more than 200 miles, Beshear said. Damage has been reported in at least 15 counties that span western Kentucky.
About 110 people were in a candle factory at the time the tornado struck, and Beshear said: “We think we will lose at least dozens of those people.”
“It is a massive and significant disaster event,” said state emergency management director Michael Dorsett, adding that search and rescue efforts are ongoing and began even when storms were in the area.
Deaths in Arkansas and Illinois, authorities say
At least one person died in Monette, northeast Arkansas, after a tornado damaged a nursing home on Friday, trapping others inside before being rescued. At least 20 were also injured at the facility, Mayor Bob Blankenship told CNN.
Another person was killed in nearby Leachville when an adult woman was “in a Dollar General store when the storm hit and they couldn’t get out,” Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told CNN.
Interstate 555 near the town of Trumann was closed due to overturned vehicles, according to Arkansas Emergency Management spokeswoman LaTresha Woodruff. State officials had been told there was damage to the city fire department, EMS facilities and a nursing home, Woodruff said.
In Illinois, an Amazon warehouse northeast of St. Louis was damaged and deaths have been confirmed, according to the Edwardsville Police Department.
“Efforts are being made to notify the closest family members at this time,” said a press release from the department that did not mention how many people died.
“It’s devastating to see the amount of damage there and to know that there were people inside when that happened,” Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback told KMOV Saturday morning. Police did not know how many people were in the building at the time of the collapse, Fillback said, or how many people could be trapped inside.
A train derailed near Madisonville, Kentucky, early Saturday morning as the weather moved through the area, according to a CSX spokeswoman. No injuries have been reported to the crew.
In the Northwest Tennessee community of Samburg, multiple structures were damaged, according to authorities. The city “is pretty flat,” Judy Faulkner, a dispatcher for the Obion County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN.
A tornado warning was issued for the greater Nashville area around 3 a.m. local time, as “a confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado was located near Pegram, or 7 miles south of Ashland City, moving east to 50 mph, “according to the National Weather. Service.
The path of a tornado, which runs from Arkansas to Kentucky, if verified, is potentially the longest route since 1925.
Along with multiple tornadoes, the storms produced dozens of reports of wind and hail as of early Saturday morning.
By activating weather alerts on Friday from Arkansas to Indiana, the severity of the storms is anticipated to lessen as the day progresses, with the greatest threat during the early hours of the morning.
Much of the eastern US will be affected by rain through Saturday night. Isolated strong to severe thunderstorms can occur from the Ohio and Tennessee valleys into the northern Gulf states, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Wind gusts, hail, and an isolated tornado remain possible.
CNN’s Joe Sutton, Keith Allen, Haley Brink, Dave Alsup, Raja Razek, and Amy Simonson contributed to this report.