Kentucky’s governor says the death toll remains at 64 from the devasting tornadoes that hit the midwestern U.S. state late Friday and early Saturday, but said the number is likely to rise, with final totals perhaps not be known for weeks.
Speaking to reporters from the state capital, Frankfort, Andy Beshear began a Monday briefing by saying, “I know, like the folks in western Kentucky, I am not doing so well today.”
He said officials are responding to the worst tornado event in the history of the state, which was hit by at least four tornadoes, one of which stayed on the ground for at least 321 kilometers in the western part of the Kentucky, devastating everything in its path. He said thousands of homes were damaged, if not destroyed.
Kentucky’s governor said 64 was the most accurate death they had as of Monday, with 18 victims still unidentified. At least 105 people are still missing. Among those killed were employees of a candle factory in the city of Mayfield.
The governor said he has no precise estimate of the amount of damage that was done in the state, but guessed it was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. He said the state would spare no expense to rebuild those areas affected and said he is working with the federal government as well.
From his Twitter account Monday, Kentucky Senator and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, on behalf of the entire Kentucky Congressional delegation, thanked U.S. President Joe Biden for his rapid approval of a federal disaster declaration, which will free up money and resources to address the devastation in the state.
While Kentucky was hit the hardest, the storm that generated several tornadoes also left destruction in the states of Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Strong storms of this nature are unusual for December in North America. Meteorologists say record warm air and water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico fueled those storms.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.