Multiple tornadoes left widespread damage and many lives were lost after a historic quad-state weather system rolled through much of Western Kentucky on Friday night.
The hardest-hit place was in Graves County, where Governor Beshear said that the city of Mayfield had been completely “devastated.”
“The level of devastation is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Beshear said in a noon press conference. “This will be, I believe, the deadliest tornado system to have ever run through Kentucky.”
Earlier this morning Beshear predicted there would be around 50 deaths, however, he is now “certain” that more than 70 Kentuckians will have unfortunately lost their life due to the storm.
“It may end up exceeding 100 before the day is done,” Beshear said.
Kentucky State Trooper Sarah Burgess said that there is significant damage reported, including a collapsed roof at a candle factory that had an estimated 110 people inside when the storm hit around 9:30 p.m. central time.
Beshear said the roof collapse has caused “mass casualties.”
“We’re gonna lose a lot of lives in that facility,” Beshear said after coming back from seeing the factory in person. “It’s a very dire situation at this point.”
The governor said the building has been flattened and cars from the parking lot are on top of it, along with huge metal drums, some leaking corrosive chemicals.
“This is probably the toughest day of my life,” Graves County Executive Judge Jesse Perry tearfully told the media. “We need your prayers, we need your help.”
State Trooper Sarah Burgess said the city had been hit hard with widespread damage including structure collapses and blocked roadways.
“Numerous homes have collapsed,” she said. “There’s been damage to nursing homes, damage to the court square, in fact. The courthouse here in Graves County has been damaged.”
Beshear declared a state of emergency early on Saturday.
Individuals across the Bluegrass have come to help, with many outside of the state wondering how they can help support Graves County.
Beshear said at noon that a direct fund called the “Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund” will soon be started to help direct money from donations to the people who need it most.
In his morning brief, he said there were reportedly four tornadoes that hit multiple counties in Western Kentucky, with the primary tornado possibly breaking historic records.
“The primary tornado was on the ground continuously for over 200 miles in our state,” he said in a Saturday morning briefing. “Something we have never seen before.”
Beshear said 181 Kentucky National Guardsmen had been deployed to communities across the state for search and extraction and debris clearance efforts.