Tornadoes leave a trail of devastation across six states, with dozens dead


Credit…William DeShazer for The New York Times

Dozens of people were feared dead, and communities in the Midwest and South were digging in the rubble on Saturday after a series of unusually strong storms and tornadoes for the season swept through six states overnight.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has said at least 70 people have been killed and the state’s death toll could rise to more than 100. The state has been hit by four tornadoes, he said , including one that remained on the ground for more than 200 miles. .

In Mayfield, Ky., About 110 people had gathered at a candle-making factory when a tornado swept through it. About 40 people were rescued, but Mr Beshear said he believed “dozens” were killed there. At a press briefing on Saturday, shocked local officials said they were struggling to comb through debris amid blocked roads and water and power outages.

“This was the most devastating tornado event in the history of our state,” Beshear said at the briefing. “The level of devastation is unlike anything I have ever seen.”

Other states have also been hit hard. Officials said at least six people were killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, four died in Tennessee and two died in Arkansas.

The storms – dark, huge funnel-shaped clouds that roared across the nighttime landscape – destroyed homes, churches and businesses, set buildings on fire, and toppled a train with 28 empty wagons, leaving behind scenes of supernatural destruction.

In Mayfield, among the hardest hit communities, the center of town had become a perilous maze of fallen power lines, dangling tree branches and scattered debris. Graves County Executive Judge Jesse Perry, who includes Mayfield, said local officials were “in the trenches, trying to find people.”

“We need your prayers,” he said, his voice faltering at a press conference on Saturday. “We need your help.”

President Biden said he had approved a declaration of emergency for Kentucky, allowing federal resources to flow into the state.

“We’re going to go through this, and we’re going to go through this together,” Biden said at a press conference. “The federal government is not going to go away.”

In Arkansas, a 94-year-old man died and five people were injured when a tornado demolished the Monette Manor retirement home, Monette Mayor Bob Blankenship said.

Mandi Sanders, who works from the home, said staff members were helping residents cover their heads with pillows to protect them from flying glass and debris before the walls collapsed and parts of the roof does not collapse.

“It was like a roaring train,” she said. “I didn’t think it would ever end.”

One person was also killed at a Dollar General store near Leachville, Ark., Governor Asa Hutchinson said.

“The most remarkable thing is probably that there is not a greater loss of life,” Mr Hutchinson said at a press briefing.

Scientists are uncertain whether there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes, in part because of limited data. But researchers say that in recent years, tornadoes seem to occur in larger “clusters” and that a so-called tornado alley in the Great Plains – where most tornadoes occur – appears to be. moving east.

At least six states – Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee – were affected by tornadoes Friday night, according to National Meteorological Service reports.

The tornadoes were part of a weather system that was wreaking havoc in many parts of the country, causing heavy snowfall in parts of the upper Midwest and western Great Lakes, said Bill Bunting, chief of operations. at the Storm Prediction Center.

The Edwardsville, Ill., Police Department said Saturday morning that the storms had caused “catastrophic damage to a significant portion” of an Amazon warehouse. Six people were killed and 45 people escaped from the building, said James Whiteford, the fire chief, at a press conference on Saturday evening.

“Earlier this afternoon the response portion of this incident was ended and our focus is now on recovery only,” said Chief Whiteford. Authorities will continue to search for people for the next three days during the day, he said.

Thousands of power outages across the region complicated rescue efforts. About 77,000 customers in Kentucky and 53,000 customers in Tennessee were without power on Saturday night, according to


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