At least 50 people are likely to have died after a tornado hit southwestern Kentucky this Friday night and caused massive destruction in Mayfield city, according to Gov. Andy Beshear.
“We know that we are likely to have more than 50 deaths, if not significantly more, from this event,” Beshear told Citizen Free Press affiliate WLKY.
Most of the destruction was centered in Graves County, he said, including the city of Mayfield. “It hit Mayfield harder than any other city has ever been hit before”.
The tornado was one of a crowd that spawned overnight Friday when a line of powerful storms hit the central United States.
The governor said “two trucks full of water” are heading to Mayfield to make sure people have usable drinking water. Beshear had declared a state of emergency overnight, deploying the National Guard.
“We have a factory in Mayfield with a roof collapse that will be a mass casualty event,” Beshear told WLKY. The buildings affected include the Graves County Courthouse and the adjoining jail.
2 dead in Arkansas, authorities say
At least 24 tornadoes were reported in five states: Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, and officials in Arkansas said at least two people had died.
And the possibility of more severe weather continues into the weekend as the system moves east, spreading from northern Louisiana to southern Ohio this Saturday morning. Tornado alerts are expected in the region.
A tornado warning was issued for the greater Nashville area around 3 a.m. local time, as “a confirmed large and extremely dangerous tornado was located near Pegram, or 11 km south of Ashland City, moving east to 50 mph,” according to the National Weather Service.
At least one person died in Monette, northeast Arkansas, after a tornado damaged a nursing home on Friday, trapping others inside before being rescued. At least 20 were also injured at the facility, Mayor Bob Blankenship told Citizen Free Press.
Another person was killed in nearby Leachville when an adult woman was “in a Dollar General store when the storm hit and they couldn’t get out,” Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told Citizen Free Press.
Interstate 555 near the town of Trumann was closed due to overturned vehicles, according to Arkansas Emergency Management spokeswoman LaTresha Woodruff. State officials had been told there was damage to the city fire department, EMS facilities and a nursing home, Woodruff said.
In the community of Samburg in northwest Tennessee, multiple structures were damaged, according to authorities. The city “is pretty flat,” Judy Faulkner, a dispatcher for the Obion County Sheriff’s Office, told Citizen Free Press.
In Illinois, an Amazon warehouse northeast of St. Louis was damaged. A resident told Citizen Free Press affiliate KMOV that a family member and an employee were trapped inside, and that others inside were quiet and working their way out of the warehouse. Video from the scene showed a great emergency response.
“It’s devastating to see the amount of damage there and to know that there were people inside when that happened,” Edwardsville Police Chief Michael Fillback told KMOV this Saturday morning. Police did not know how many people were in the building at the time of the collapse, Fillback said, or how many people could be trapped inside.
A train derailed near Madisonville, Kentucky, early Saturday morning as the weather moved through the area, according to a CSX spokeswoman. No injuries have been reported to the crew.
The path of a tornado, which runs from Arkansas to Kentucky, if verified, is potentially the longest route since 1925.
Along with multiple tornadoes, the storms produced dozens of reports of wind and hail as of early Saturday morning.
In addition, more than 240,000 customers had lost power in seven states as of 4:30 am this Saturday, according to poweroutage.us.
By activating the weather alerts this Friday from Arkansas to Indiana, the severity of the storms is anticipated to lessen as the day progresses, with the greatest threat during the early hours of the morning.
Much of the eastern US will be affected by rain through Saturday night. Isolated strong to severe thunderstorms can occur from the Ohio and Tennessee valleys into the northern Gulf states, according to the Storm Prediction Center. Wind gusts, hail, and an isolated tornado remain possible.
Travis M. Andrews is a features writer for The Washington Post. He joined The Post in 2016 as a reporter for Morning Mix. He was previously a travel and culture editor for Southern Living magazine, a contributing pop culture reporter for Mashable and the Week, and a contributing editor for the Syfy blog Dvice. He also has freelanced for magazines, including Esquire, GQ and Time. He is the author of the coming book “Because He’s Jeff Goldblum,” a semi-rumination and semi-ridiculous look at the career of the enigmatic actor and an exploration of the shifting nature of fame in the 21st century, to be published in November by Plume.