Devastating Tornadoes Sweep Across the Midwest and South


Brandon Clement

Residents navigate the mass destruction left behind in Mayfield, KY early Saturday morning.

Heyli Brown, Club Member

Last Friday night and early Saturday morning, a string of tornadoes tore through several states in the Midwest and Southeast, including Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

The storms left many unaccounted for with over 100 people believed to be missing and at least 88 confirmed dead in total. 

In Kentucky, the storms became the deadliest tornado event in state history and its effects can still be felt throughout the area a week later. According to the National Weather Service, the F/EF4 tornado first touched down in Fulton County around 9 p.m. before stretching east to Muhlenberg County.

One of the twisters that made landfall is believed to have possibly traveled more than 200 miles.

Dozens of homes were destroyed during the storm, leaving several without a place to stay and many others without power.

Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett confirmed on Tuesday that in the town of Mayfield, the entire electric grid had been wiped out. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have begun assessing which homes have the possibility of being repaired.

While opening state parks to those who have been displaced by the storm, state officials warned that some residents could be without heat, electricity, or water for weeks or months. 

As of today, the death toll in Kentucky sits at 77, including twelve children. In Mayfield, rescue workers use cadaver dogs to search the rubble left behind by a collapsed candle factory that was occupied at the time of the tornado, leaving eight dead. Amongst those found was Robert Daniel, a police officer who was supervising local inmates on work release.

The story reflects several unfortunate others in Kentucky.

In Dawson Springs, loved ones mourn the life of two-month-old, Oaklynn, who suffered a brain bleed days after huddling in a bathroom with her family to escape the storm. In Hopkins County, a former administrator and Dawson Springs Independent School Board member, 65-year-old Jenny Bruce also passed away during the storm. 

After reports of significant damage first started coming in, Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency, activating over 300 guardsmen from the Kentucky National Guard, a number that has since jumped past 500. On Monday, the Department of Defense held a press briefing in which Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby confirmed that at least 80 of those guardsmen would help recovery support while another 50 would work with the Department of Forestry in debris clearance.

Kirby also said members of the Army Corps of Engineers had been deployed to assist in “assessing infrastructure and critical public facilities” as well as “for engineering and public works.”

In a recent news conference, Beshear thanked the Kentucky National Guard and other state personnel for their efforts saying, “This has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history… But we will make it through this. We will rebuild. We are strong, resilient people… This is one state standing strong.”

In the aftermath of the destruction, the areas affected by the tragedies have since set up Relief Funds to help victims. If you would like to donate or learn more on how to help, you can do so at the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.