MAYFIELD, Ky. (AP) – Night shift workers were in the midst of a holiday rush, extinguishing candles at Mayfield Consumer Products when a tornado hit the factory and people ran outside for shelter.
For Autumn Kirks, that means throwing the bucket of wax and perfume aside to create an improvised safe. She glanced at her boyfriend, Lannis Ward, and when she looked back, he was gone. At the end of the day, she received terrible news – that Ward had perished in the storm.
At least eight people at the plant were killed, among dozens killed in several Kentucky counties. The state has been hardest hit by far in an unusual wave in mid-December through the Midwest and South that flattened entire communities and left at least 14 dead in Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.
But at the very least, the plant’s toll will be lower than initially feared.
Governor Andy Beshear said Saturday that only 40 of the 110 people who worked in the plant at the time were saved, and that “it would be a miracle if anyone else was found alive in it.” . But on Sunday, the candle maker said that while eight people have been confirmed dead and eight are still missing, more than 90 others have been found.
“Many employees gathered at the tornado shelter and after the storm ended, they left the factory and returned to their homes,” said Bob Ferguson, a spokesman for the company. “Initially there was a power outage and without a landline, it was very difficult for them to contact. We hope to find more of the eight uncounted when we try their homes. “
Beshear said Sunday morning that the state’s toll could exceed 100. But after state officials heard the company’s update, he said later that afternoon, the number could likely exceed 100. down to 50.
“We are praying that maybe our initial estimates of what we have lost are wrong. If so, it would be pretty amazing,” the governor said.
Rescuers at the candle factory had to crawl over the dead to reach the living at the disaster scene that smelled like scented candles.
By the time churchgoers gathered on Sunday morning to pray for the lost, more than 24 hours had passed since anyone was found alive. Instead, the crews found pieces of people’s lives – a backpack, a pair of shoes and a cell phone with 27 missed messages among these.
“We will grieve together, we will dig and clean together, we will rebuild and move forward together. We will get through this,” said Beshear. “We’re going to get through this together, because that’s what we do.”
Four bends have hit the state, including one about 200 miles (322 km) long, authorities said. The outbreak is all the more notable because it comes at a time of year when cold weather usually limits tornadoes.
Twelve people have been reported killed in and around Bowling Green alone.
“I have towns that are gone, just, I mean, gone. My dad’s hometown – half of it has no place,” Beshear said of Dawson Springs.
He said that going door-to-door looking for victims was beyond the reach of the hardest-hit areas: “There’s no door.”
“We will have more than 1,000 homes that are gone, just gone,” the governor said.
With high afternoon temperatures forecast for only the 40s, tens of thousands of people are without electricity. About 300 National Guard members went door to door, checking on residents and helping remove debris. Cadaver dogs looking for victims.
Kirks said she and her boyfriend were about 10 feet apart in a hallway when someone told them to cover up. Suddenly, she saw the sky and lightning where there was a wall, and Ward was gone.
“I remember taking my eyes off him for a second, and then he was gone,” she said.
“It is indescribable,” Pastor Joel Cauley said of the disaster scene. “It’s almost like you’re in a twilight zone. You can smell the candles, and you can hear people’s cries for help. The smelly candle and all the sirens is not something I ever expected to experience at the same time.”
The outbreak also killed at least six people in Illinois, where an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville was affected; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed and the governor said workers covered residents with their own bodies; and two in Missouri.
Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees blanketed the ground in Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 people in western Kentucky. Sheets of metal were twisted, power lines were down, and wrecked vehicles littered the streets. Windows were blown out and roofs were ripped from buildings that were still standing.
In the shadow of their ruined church sanctuary, two congregations in Mayfield came together on Sunday to pray for the lost. Members of First Christian Church and First Presbyterian Church met in a parking lot surrounded by rubble, broken bricks and metal.
“Our small town will never be the same, but we are resilient,” says Laura McClendon. “We will get there, but it will take a long time.”
https://fox4kc.com/news/kentucky-tornado-toll-now-in-dozens-lower-than-feared-at-candle-factory/ The number of tornadoes in Kentucky is now in the dozens; lower than fear at candle factory