A succession of tornadoes, one of which traveled 350 km, hit Kentucky and Arkansas in the central eastern United States overnight from Friday to Saturday. While the help is active to search for the victims, the governor of Kentucky fears that the death toll will reach the hundred inhabitants.
A succession of tornadoes wreaked havoc on Friday evening and the night that followed in several states in the east-central United States, particularly in the Kentucky, killing dozens and destroying homes, public buildings and industrial sites, authorities said on Saturday.
The death toll could reach 100 dead
At least four tornadoes have been recorded in Kentucky, the main one covering more than 350 km across the state, Gov. Andy Beshear said. The toll could exceed 50 dead and reach 100 dead, he said during a press conference in the early hours of the day. “The information reaching us is truly overwhelming,” he added. “It was one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history and some places were hit in a way that is hard to put into words.”
The roof of a candle factory collapses
The city of Mayfield, in the western part of the state, on the borders of Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, was particularly affected. About 110 people were inside a candle factory when the tornado swept through the area and caused the roof to collapse, said Andy Beshear. “We think we are going to lose at least several dozen of these people”, said the governor. Images disseminated on social networks show brick buildings reduced to ruins in the center of this locality of about 10,000 inhabitants, the streets and cars covered with debris.
The steeple of the local court appears to have been razed to the ground. Across Kentucky, about 56,000 residents were without power on Saturday morning, said Andy Beshear, who declared a state of emergency and mobilized the National Guard.
A super storm cell at the origin
This succession of tornadoes seems to have its origin in a series of powerful thunderstorms, including a super thunderstorm cell that formed in northeast Arkansas. This cell moved from Arkansas and Missouri to Tennessee and Kentucky. “Sadly, this generated several deadly tornadoes on its way. One of them could have been a long trajectory tornado“said Roger Edward, meteorologist at the Storm Prediction Center.
In Arkansas, at least one person was killed and five others were seriously injured when a tornado devastated a retirement home in Monette, a small town near Missouri, said Marvin Day, Craighead County official. “She took the full brunt of the tornado,” he told Reuters. “We were very lucky that there weren’t more deaths or injuries. It could have been a lot worse.”
“As if a train was crossing the city”
A few miles further in Leachville, still Arkansas, a tornado destroyed a department store, killing one, and blanketing the town in debris, said Chuck Brown of the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office. “It really felt like a train was going through town,” he said. In Illinois, police reported “confirmed casualties” after the roof of an Amazon warehouse partially collapsed in Edwardsville, near St. Louis. Helpers continued to search for victims or survivors under the rubble.
In Tennessee, at least three people have died from inclement weather, state emergency agency spokesperson Dean Flener said, without being able to elaborate on the circumstances of the deaths. The Storm Prediction Center, which reports to the National Weather Service, said a total of 36 tornadoes were reported to it in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi .