FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and Kentucky Emergency Management director Michael Dossett are continuing to keep the state informed on the deadly tornadoes that hit western Kentucky Friday night into Saturday morning.
The governor says as of this morning, the state’s death toll remains at 74. Of those victims, eight remain either unidentified or their names have not yet been released. Beshear says the victims who died range in ages from 2-months-old to 98-years-old, with 12 identified as children.
By county, the governor’s office says the death toll is:
- Graves County: 21 (eight at the Mayfield Candle Factory, 13 in other areas of the county)
- Hopkins County: 17
- Warren County: 15
- Muhlenberg County: 11
- Caldwell County: 4
- Marshall County: 2
- Franklin County: 1
- Fulton County: 1
- Lyon County: 1
- Taylor County: 1
According to Beshear, the total number of Kentuckians missing remains above 100. Beshear said yesterday the current official count is 109 missing, but he adds he believes the number is actually higher. Multiple local and federal search and rescue missions are ongoing.
The governor also said Monday that 94 of the 110 employees from the Mayfield Candle Factory are alive and accounted for. Eight employees have been confirmed dead and eight more are still missing. Beshear also said the state is asking the factory employees to visit His House Ministries or call 888-880-8620 to verify they are safe and accounted for. Beshear says the number is only for the employees and asks that others do not call asking for updates.
Beshear declared a state of emergency in the counties impacted. Yesterday, Gracia Szczech with the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced President Joe Biden had made a major declaration that included the eight Kentucky counties of Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor and Warren. The state is currently asking for more counties to be added to that declaration including Boyle, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Casey, Christian, Edmonson, Grayson, Green, Hardin, Hart, Hickman, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Monroe, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer and Todd counties.
The governor urges Kentuckians to document everything they possibly can before cleaning up because the documentation will be important for applying for assistance. He also asked people to be careful and stay safe while trying to clean up their homes and neighborhood, especially around downed powerlines.
Biden will also visit the state Wednesday, Dec. 15 as part of a trip through all affected states to survey the damage.
Individuals and business owners who experienced losses can apply for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585, or by downloading the FEMA App.
The state has also started a relief fund for those impacted. Those who want to donate to that fund can visit TeamWKYReliefFund.ky.gov. The fund has already raised more than $9.89 million through more than 66,000 donations. Beshear says the state will work to make sure these funds are available to support Kentuckians for the long-term recovery from the disaster.
“Support for the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has been nothing short of extraordinary,” Beshear said. “We’re going to be real careful that this fund, a large portion, is available for the needs of Kentuckians that are going to continue long after the outside help is gone.”
Dossett says thousands of customers are still without power, not counting those serviced by the Mayfield Electric Company, which was destroyed. He says power was restored to 10,000 customers last night and crews are working as fast as possible to get power to Kentuckians.
Kentucky First Lady Britainy Beshear also announced Monday evening the launch of the Western Kentucky Toy Drive to help the families who lost so much in the tornadoes just weeks before Christmas. The state will be accepting donations from today through Saturday, Dec. 18. The drive is collecting items for children from infants to teenagers including toys, books, electronics, and $25 VISA or Mastercard gift cards.
All items donated must be unwrapped, but Kentuckians can also donate wrapping materials such as paper and bows along with their items. The first lady says multiple law enforcement agencies will be accepting the donations. This toy drive is not accepting clothing items at this time.
For more information on the drive, visit the governor and first lady’s websites.
During today’s briefing, Lt. Gov. Coleman shared details of her visits to some of the areas hit by the tornadoes. She said among the devastation, she heard so many stories of Kentuckians banding together to save each other’s lives and help their neighbors in need after the storms.
“As devastating as this damage is and all of the images that we see coming out of this, man, the stories of neighbors helping neighbors and of people across Kentucky coming together to support each other it’s remarkable. Absolutely remarkable,” Coleman said. “Look for the helpers as we dig through this damage and recover and rebuild. We’ve got folks all around us who are doing God’s work and they are compassionate, and we are very lucky.”
The Salvation Army is also taking up monetary donations to assist those impacted by the disaster. Beshear also encourages Kentuckians to donate blood to the Red Cross to help the area’s hospitals and medical centers.
The governor says the state parks have also been opened to displaced residents and first responders. Those in need of emergency housing can reach out to their local emergency management office or local state park for assistance.