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Determined recovery efforts begin after tornadoes wreak havoc, with officials estimating 75% of a Kentucky town is gone

CNN, WPSD

By Kelly McCleary, Jason Hanna, Elizabeth Joseph and Claudia Dominguez, CNN

Those who had their lives cut off in an instant violent and unforgiving tornadoes over the weekend, they are now facing a new reality – finding basic needs for food and shelter while besieged by devastation and uncertainty over the fate of commuters. their neighborhood.

In the small town of Dawson Springs in western Kentucky, about 75% of the community has been wiped out and replaced by “chaos,” Mayor Chris Smiley said Sunday.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” said Smiley, who has lived in the town for 63 years. “It’s just devastating.”

Severe weather moving through the central and southern US late Friday into Saturday left at least 100 people feared dead. According to the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Prediction Center, the storms produced at least 50 tornadoes in eight states.

In Kentucky, teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are here, said Michael Dossett, director of the Kentucky Emergency Management Agency. According to Governor Andy Beshear, more than 300 National Guard troops are on active duty across nine counties.

“The devastation is quite frankly something you can see in a war zone. This is an event where we have commercial and residential properties literally taken from the earth,” Dossett told CNN Sunday.

The list of those missing in Dawson Springs has more than 100 names, a Hopkins County emergency official said Sunday, but they expect most of them to be people who have left town but have not yet registered.

Nick Bailey, director of emergency management in Hopkins County, said that while rescue efforts continued Sunday, no survivors were pulled from the wreckage.

The town’s death toll rose to 13 Sunday, up from 10 Saturday, Hopkins County Coroner Dennis Mayfield said. The dead ranged in age from 34 to 86 and included two older sisters who lived together and a husband and wife.

“Our morale is down right now, but we’ll be back,” Mayfield said.

Meanwhile, “hundreds of people” in the town of nearly 3,000 people have no place to live. “Nearly the entire city has been displaced at this point,” Bailey said.

Bailey said people whose homes are still without electricity can stay in the dark for up to a month.

“You can change a house, you can change furniture, you can change clothes, but you can’t replace memories and pictures,” says Erica Steip. CNN branch WZTV when she picked up what was left of her sister’s house in Dawson Springs. “She’s alive, and I’m so grateful,” says Steip.

The American Red Cross has eight shelters established in Kentucky and is providing relief to nearly 200 people, the group’s Kentucky CEO Steven Cunanan said Sunday.

Beshear said at a news conference Sunday afternoon, a number of state parks have also been opened to help families who have lost everything.

“We’re bringing them in,” Beshear said. “We’re trying to make sure people stay for two weeks, so they don’t have to worry about tomorrow. They may worry about finding their loved ones, making sure their kids have enough to eat.”

Cunanan said the Red Cross’s main goal is to provide food and care to people forced to leave their homes due to tornadoes. “We have to help them get their lives back on track and get them back to feeling normal again.”

The emotional state of your life being affected by a natural disaster is also an important consideration, says Cunanan. “I’ve seen that in every disaster I’ve been through. They were shocked. They don’t know where to turn.”

Rescuers can’t go door-to-door because ‘there’s no door,’ Kentucky governor says

For Beshear, the devastation in Dawson Springs was close to home because it was his father’s hometown, but the inclement weather affected a large swath of his state.

In Kentucky alone, the death toll is at least 80 and is expected to exceed 100, Beshear told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. Eighteen counties in the state are reporting damage, Beshear said, noting a monster tornado was more than 227 miles above ground, 200 of which were in Kentucky.

“I have towns that are gone – I mean gone,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I mean you go door-to-door to check on people and see if they’re okay. There’s no door…it’s brutal. “

Beshear told NBC News he expects other challenges ahead, due to power outages and winter weather conditions, and said some morgues in the state may not be able to meet current needs.

“One of our challenges is that we’re losing so many people on this, most of our morgues aren’t big enough, so our coronators from across the state are coming in,” Beshear said.

According to Dossett, the director of emergency management, there is a “massive recovery effort” focused largely on Dawson Springs, Graves, Mayfield and Bowling Green.

President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Sunday night Kentucky, the White House said. The move allows grants and low-cost loans to be brought in for home repairs and housing in the affected areas.

“Because housing, we know, is going to be such a huge demand, we’re sending one of our housing experts here tomorrow to kick-start our strategy on how we can help in the long run, said Deanne Criswell, administrator of FEMA.

Beshear told CNN he plans to visit the Mayfield candle factory that collapsed during the storm, which hit as employees were working to meet the demands of the busy holiday season.

A spokesman for Mayfield Consumer Products, Bob Ferguson, told CNN.

“We know for sure that more than 90 employees survived the night of the tornado,” Ferguson said.

“It would be a miracle if someone alive was found in the rubble of the collapsed candle factory,” said Beshear. “There’s at least 15 feet of metal with cars on it, tanks of corrosive chemicals there.”

The governor said he heard the facility had an emergency plan in place.

“Most of the workers have gone to what is believed to be the safest place. But when you see the damage this storm caused not only there but across the region, I’m not sure there was a plan that worked,” he said.

As officials focus their attention on the need for an immediate recovery, forecasters are watching for the possibility of another spell of severe weather in the region.

Although it’s still early days, some tornado-affected areas will experience similar weather patterns this week, with a warming spell followed by a front, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy. Others could bring the risk of severe weather over the weekend, according to CNN meteorologist Michael Guy.

Tornadoes reported in eight states

In addition to Kentucky, tornadoes from the same storm system have been reported in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Prediction Center said.

As of Sunday, five EF-3 tornadoes have been identified in the following localities: Defiance, Missouri; Edwardsville, Illinois; Bowling Green, Kentucky; Saloma, Kentucky, and in Kentucky between Cayce and Beaver Creek, an area that includes the ravaged town of Mayfield.

At least six people have died at an Amazon warehouse that collapsed in Edwardsville, Illinois, Sheriff James Whiteford said. The recovery phase is expected to take days, and first responders will continue to search the site for evidence of life, he said.

The six dead were aged between 26 and 62, the Edwardsville Police Department said.

One of the victims was identified as Clayton Cope, a 29-year-old US Navy veteran. He’s been with Amazon for just over a year as a maintenance mechanic, said his mother, Carla Cope. His father also worked at the facility with a similar position.

“If (Clay) wasn’t there, my husband would have been,” she said.

An Amazon representative said tornado warning sirens sounded 11 minutes before the storm arrived.

“Regulators have been broadcasting people to the shelter in place. They are also guided by other managers and other employees who are trying to get everyone to that safe location,” said Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Nantel. CNN branch KSDK Sunday.

She said employees took shelter in two unspecified safe areas. Nantel said dispatchers have also contacted Amazon delivery drivers in the area and told them to shelter in place.

In Monette, northeastern Arkansas, at least one person was killed at a nursing home that suffered tornado damage, Mayor Bob Blankenship said.

A second person died after the storm hit a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville, officials said. The person was identified Sunday as assistant store manager June Pennington of Mississippi County, Arkansas, according to county spokesman Tom Henry.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that it was a “miracle” that only one person had died at the nursing home.

“When I arrived at that facility, I felt like the roof of the house and all the furniture in it was sucked by the sky. And it was just a miracle with 67 residents that we lost only one there. And that was thanks to the heroic efforts of the staff and the fact that we had 20 minutes of warning,” he said.

Officials confirmed two hurricane-related deaths in Missouri, including a woman killed at her home in St. Charles and a young child were killed at their home in Pemiscot County, the governor said.

Tennessee has reported four weather-related deaths from extreme weather. Tennessee Emergency Management spokesman Dean Flener said two people were in Lake County, one in Obion County and one in Shelby County.

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CNN’s Ashley Killough, Laura Studley, Kiely Westhoff, Susannah Cullinane, Eric Levenson and Amir Vera contributed to this report.

https://kesq.com/news/2021/12/13/determined-recovery-efforts-begin-after-tornadoes-wreak-devastation-with-officials-estimating-75-of-one-kentucky-town-gone/ Determined recovery efforts begin after tornadoes wreak havoc, with officials estimating 75% of a Kentucky town is gone

DUSTIN JONES

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