Deadly tornadoes cut devastating path through western Kentucky overnight
More than 50 people are dead and dozens more feared dead after severe storms swept across Kentucky overnight.
In an early morning briefing Saturday, Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll would likely be closer to 70 to 100 after one of the worst tornadoes in state history. Beshear declared a state of emergency.
The primary tornado stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles in the state. Beshear said Graves County experienced the most significant devastation, particularly the city of Mayfield, where much of downtown was destroyed and a roof collapsed at a candle factory, where more than 100 people were working.
"To all of our Kentucky families that are impacted by this: We want you to know that we are here for you. We love you. We are praying for you," Beshear said.
Tens of thousands of Kentuckians are without power. Western Kentucky University says emergency crews are assessing storm damage after reports of a tornado in Bowling Green. A Saturday commencement ceremony was cancelled.
"The tornado event may surpass the 1974 super outbreak as one of the most deadly in Kentucky history," said emergency management director Michael Dossett. "It will be daybreak before we realize the full magnitude of this event."
Search and rescue efforts are underway in impacted counties, Dossett said.
Beshear said he activated support from the National Guard and Kentucky State Police, as well as the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. He plans to travel to western Kentucky today. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced that first responders from Louisville fire and EMS and the Pleasure Ridge Park fire district are en route to Mayfield.
The storm caused devastation throughout the Midwest and South, and four states were affected by the same weather system: The Associated Press reports that at least one person died in Edwardsville, Illinois, at an Amazon facility where the roof was ripped off. Three people have died in severe weather in Tennessee. One person has died after an apparent tornado tore through a nursing home in Arkansas. At least one fatality was reported in Missouri.
Note: Western Kentucky University President Timothy Caboni had said a WKU student was among those who died in the deadly string of storms that ripped through Kentucky late Friday night and early Saturday morning. The school now believes that it was a close relative of a student that died. This story has been updated to reflect the change.