Americans are dealing with the aftermath from a series of tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky and several Midwest states on Friday, tearing apart towns and killing dozens.
On Friday night, a storm system moved across the central United States, triggering multiple tornadoes that crossed several states with speeds ranging between 254 to 331 kilometres per hour, preliminary information from the National Weather Service (NWS) indicates.
Six states were impacted, with the worst damage in Kentucky where at least 64 people were killed from at least four twisters that hit the state, the Associated Press reports. The final death toll could take weeks to finalize, and cleanup will take even longer, Kentucky officials said Monday.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada told Global News the department isn’t aware of any Canadian citizens affected by the tornadoes.
Here’s a look at some of the destruction.
Mayfield, Kentucky suffers worst
Among all the towns the tornadoes tore through, Mayfield, Ky. has seen the worst damage.
The small town, which is about 365 kilometres away from Louisville, has seen homes, courthouses, police stations, fire stations and churches ripped apart.
Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees covers the ground in Mayfield, a city of about 10,000. Twisted sheet metal, downed power lines and ruined vehicles line the streets. Buildings that remain standing have seen windows shattered and roofs removed.
“Our infrastructure is so damaged. We have no running water. Our water tower was lost. Our wastewater management was lost, and there’s no natural gas to the city,” said Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan on CBS Mornings.
“We have nothing to rely on there, so that is purely survival at this point for so many of our people.”
The storm also tore through the Mayfield Consumer Products LLC candle factory, which had night shift workers on duty.
Of the 110 people who were on-site at the factory Friday night, 94 are believed to have made it out alive, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said at a briefing Monday, citing information from the business owners.
“We feared much, much worse,” he said. “I pray that it is accurate.”
Initially, roughly 70 people were feared dead in the factory, but the company said Sunday that eight deaths were confirmed and eight remained missing.
“Many of the employees were gathered in the tornado shelter and after the storm was over they left the plant and went to their homes,” Bob Ferguson, a spokesman for the company, told The Associated Press. “With the power out and no landline they were hard to reach initially. We’re hoping to find more of those eight unaccounted as we try their home residences.”
Kentucky’s emergency management director, Michael Dossett, said Monday that 28,000 homes and businesses are without power.
More than 300 National Guard personnel and hundreds of state workers have been distributing supplies and are working to clear roads of debris.
“Restoration is ongoing; this again is not going to be a week or month operation,” Dossett said. “This will go on for years to come. This is a massive event, the largest and most devastating in Kentucky’s history.”
Beshear added authorities were coordinating an “unprecedented amount of goods and volunteers.”
President Joe Biden is expected to visit the state on Wednesday. Biden on Sunday declared a major federal disaster in Kentucky that paved the way for additional federal aid.
What other states did the tornado hit?
While Kentucky has seen the most damage, it wasn’t the only state impacted by the storm.
Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas and Mississippi all saw tornadoes from the Friday weather system.
In addition to the deaths in Kentucky, the tornadoes killed at least six people in Illinois where an Amazon distribution centre in Edwardsville was hit.
Four people died in Tennessee, two in Missouri and two in Arkansas where a nursing home was destroyed.
While Global Affairs Canada told Global News it isn’t aware of any Canadians impacted, the agency said roughly 900 Canadians live in the impacted states.
Those figures are from the Registration of Canadians Abroad service, a voluntary platform, and therefore officials said it’s not a complete picture of Canadians in the area.
“Global Affairs Canada is closely monitoring the situation and the Government of Canada stands ready to provide assistance if requested,” a spokesperson said.
An ‘unimaginable tragedy’
At a prayer service over the weekend, Mayfield resident Laura McClendon said the town will come back stronger than before.
“Our little town will never be the same, but we’re resilient,” McClendon told The Associated Press. “We’ll get there, but it’s going to take a long time.”
In a tweet on Saturday, Biden said the federal government will work with impacted states on recoveries.
“To lose a loved one in a storm like this is an unimaginable tragedy,” Biden said. “We’re working with Governors to ensure they have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue.”
Vice President Kamala Harris also tweeted Saturday her prayers were with those impacted.
“The devastation for these communities is heartbreaking,” she said. “Our Administration is working with state and local officials to support immediate assistance and rescue efforts in the affected areas.”
Pope Francis was among those around the world who expressed their condolences for the tragedy, describing the tornadoes as having a “devastating impact.”
In a telegram sent Monday by Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Francis offered prayers for those who died, “comfort to those who mourn their loss and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy.”
Back in Mayfield on Monday, Terra Utley began sorting through the damage at her home. Nine colleagues from the concrete company where she works came to help her.
“We are a big family. We really are,” the 32-year-old told Reuters. “For them to be out here, taking time out of their day to come help me, it means the world to me.”
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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