Deadly tornadoes devastate parts of Kentucky and other states

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:31 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021
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8:29 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Emergency official has "high confidence" no one is left in the Kentucky candle factory

From CNN's Jenn Selva

Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Saturday, December 11. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)
Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Saturday, December 11. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

The owners of Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory say every occupant in the building during the storm has been accounted for, according to Louisville Emergency Management Director E.J. Meiman.

“We have a high level of confidence that there is no one left in this building,” said Meiman during a Monday evening news conference. 

They are conducting secondary accountability for those who were missing, and to see if they need assistance.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said earlier Monday that eight people have been confirmed dead in the building, and Meiman said that number has not changed.

6:40 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

"Recovery is going to take years," Kentucky pastor who took shelter in church during storm says

From CNN's Claudia Dominguez

Rev. Joey Reed (CNN)
Rev. Joey Reed (CNN)

Tornado survivor Rev. Joey Reed, lead pastor for Mayfield First United Methodist Church in Mayfield, Kentucky, told CNN’s Jake Tapper that he rode out the storm in a basement closet with this wife.

“We got to the church and found ourselves in the basement. And, according to the safety plan, we should have been in a hallway in that basement,” Reed Said. “If we had stayed in that hallway, we wouldn't be having this conversation now. We ended up in a classroom and a closet in that classroom actually riding out the storm and waiting for the tornado to go past.”

Much of the church was destroyed by the tornado. Reed said it would take years to rebuild the sanctuary. 

“My experience with natural disasters and damage of this magnitude indicates that we're going to be a long-time rebuilding. We're going to have to find some temporary normal until we can do that,” Reed said.

He says that he told his congregation that God did not do this to Mayfield, but that this was something that happened in Mayfield.

He also told CNN that people stepped up and moved into action immediately to help when it was needed.

“When we realized after the storm that our family car had been buried under the north wall of the sanctuary, I needed a ride. So, I reached out to one of my members and John and Marilyn Marshall came running in the middle of the night after a major tornado to fetch us and bring us back to the parsonage. I walked into the service of worship yesterday without a car, with no electricity and no water. And I walked out with a set of car keys from one of my members who said i just cleaned everything out and put a fresh tank of gas in. And I’m going home to a generator. So, this is the way that they step up,” Reed told CNN.

Reed said he was grateful for all the help they have received so far like, but they need diesel, food for volunteers, among other things.

He says that he expects the recovery to start in two years, but he is in this for the long haul.

The pastor said the church "has received countless gifts" on their online portal and it's allowed them "to move very quickly into the recovery, well into the relief phase, and we are finding out the recovery is going to take years. It won't start for almost two years, according to the people that I'm talking to."

6:09 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Mayor of Kentucky town says people who lost their homes have no place to go 

From CNN's Jenn Selva

The remains of a house seen through a broken window after a tornado in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, on Sunday, December 12.(Michael Clubb/AP)
The remains of a house seen through a broken window after a tornado in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, on Sunday, December 12.(Michael Clubb/AP)

Dawson Springs, Kentucky, Mayor Chris Smiley says there’s no place for people to go who have lost their homes while they are being rebuilt.

“We’re hoping FEMA comes in here and tries to set up something here,” Smiley told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “We are a small town as well as also a small area as well. So, it’s gonna be hard to find a place to put the temporary housing and stuff.”

Smiley described the situation as devastating and said 75% of the town is “gone.” 

There are at least 13 people confirmed dead in Dawson Springs, and President Biden is expected to visit the area on Wednesday.


5:25 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Kentucky lieutenant governor on tornado aftermath: The devastation is rivaled only by the compassion

From CNN's Jason Kurtz

The interior of a badly damaged home in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 13.
The interior of a badly damaged home in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 13. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Kentucky's lieutenant governor has toured some of the damage and debris left by the tornado outbreak that ravaged her state. Two days since the disaster, she's moved not only by the destruction she's seen, but also by the empathy she's observed.

"I will tell you that I saw a level of devastation that was only rivaled by the compassion and love of neighbors," Jacqueline Coleman told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"As stunning and heartbreaking as it is to see homes and buildings destroyed with nothing left, what brings you hope is seeing those neighbors helping neighbors," the lieutenant governor continued.

Asked by Tapper whether the search for the 109 Kentuckians who have not been accounted for has shifted from a rescue mission to a recovery mission, Coleman called upon the Bluegrass State's resolve.

"Part of the Team Kentucky spirit is just never giving up hope," she said, adding, "we're going to keep hoping and keep working until we can make sure that everyone has been found and identified and every family has some peace."

Less than two weeks out from Christmas, the lieutenant governor noted the need to share warmth and compassion with those afflicted with the unimaginable.

"First and foremost on our list is to wrap our arms around these grieving families and help them to deal with the trauma and the loss of life as we work together to clean and rebuild," she said.

Watch more:

5:35 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Death toll now 74 after tornadoes ripped through Kentucky, governor says

From CNN’s Carma Hassan

A car sits among debris from a destroyed home in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, on December 12.
A car sits among debris from a destroyed home in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, on December 12. (Michael Clubb/AP)

The death toll now stands at 74 after tornadoes tore through Kentucky and 109 Kentuckians are unaccounted for, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

The numbers are coming from emergency management, the governor said, so the figure may differ from what the coroner's office is reporting.

One additional death was reported in Graves County, possibly four more deaths in Hopkins County, three additional deaths in Warren County, and one additional death in Franklin County.

Beshear said there are conflicting reports of how many deaths are being reported in Hopkins County. 

“Again, we expect this death toll to continue to grow,” the governor said.

3:06 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Coroner identifies 15 victims after tornado touched down in Warren County, Kentucky

From CNN’s Jennifer Henderson

Fifteen people killed when a tornado struck Warren County, Kentucky, have been identified by the county’s coroner Kevin Kirby.

The fatalities include two infants and a 4-year-old. The oldest victim is a 77-year-old woman.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear reported 12 deaths in Warren County at his 10 a.m. news conference. The governor is expected to brief next at 4 p.m. ET.

According to the 1 p.m. ET news release from the Warren County Coroner’s office, the victims are as follows:

  • Cory Scott (27 years old)
  • Mae F. White (77 years old)
  • Victoria Smith (64 years old)
  • Rachel Brown (36 years old)
  • Steven Brown (35 years old)
  • Nariah Cayshelle Brown (16 years old)
  • Nolynn Brown (juvenile, no age given)
  • Nyles Brown (4 years old)
  • Alisa Besic (adult, no age given)
  • Selmir Besic (juvenile, no age given)
  • Elma Besic (juvenile, no age given).
  • Samantha Besic (infant)
  • Alma Besic (infant)
  • Robert Williams, Jr. (65 years old)
  • Say Meh (42 years old)
2:38 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

One of the tornadoes was on the ground for at least 128 miles, official says

From CNN's Judson Jones

The deadly, long-track tornado that devastated numerous communities in Kentucky was on the ground continuously for at least 128 miles in the state, and likely longer, an official with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah told CNN on Monday. 

Preliminary data from a flyover of the tornado damage indicates that the tornado cut a continuous path through the entire area of responsibility for the National Weather Service forecast office in Paducah. 

Since the tornado also tracked through the Memphis and Louisville offices of the NWS, the full distance traveled by the single tornado will require the completion of surveys from those offices as well. 

The tornado is one of at least 50 reported Friday night into Saturday across at least eight states. 

2:05 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Officials investigating if there were structural issues at Illinois Amazon warehouse hit by tornado

From CNN’s Kay Jones

The exterior of a damaged Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, on December 12.
The exterior of a damaged Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, on December 12.  (Liam Kennedy/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Officials are investigating if the Amazon warehouse hit by Friday’s tornado in Illinois had any structural issues before the storm, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

After touring the damaged warehouse Monday, he said a priority is to find out what happened in the Edwardsville building and investigate the situation. He said the local government, fire chief and incident commander in the area were already looking into what happened at the warehouse and that the investigation is ongoing. 

He said the tornado was unexpected — but that as unexpected storms increase in frequency, changes could be needed.

“It makes us wonder if there needs to be a change in code for these buildings,” Pritzker said.  

Kelly Nantel of Amazon said that the building was constructed consistent with code, but they are evaluating and making sure they learn from the incident.

Nantel said that the room where employees gathered during the storm is an interior room of the facility, but it isn’t considered a “safe room." Instead, it’s a “take shelter” room and had enough capacity for those who were working on Friday night, according to John Feldman, with Amazon.  

Nantel said employees were alerted via sirens that went off, as well as alerts sent to their cell phones. Leaders of the facilities also went through and told the employees on site about the warning. She said that employees are allowed to have their cell phones with them during their shift.

Feldman said that procedure was followed correctly by both employees and management. He said there was a “tremendous effort” to keep everyone safe on Friday night.  

1:08 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Biden on visit to Kentucky after deadly tornadoes: "I don't want to be in the way"

Fro m CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden is scheduled to visit areas impacted by tornadoes in Kentucky on Wednesday, but told reporters that his intention is to not be in the way.

"I haven't decided where I'm going yet. What I indicated to the governor when we talked about this two days ago was that I don't want to be in the way," Biden said during an update from the White House.

"There's a lot going on, and when the President shows up there's a long tail to follow of a lot of folks, and I just don't want to do anything other than be value added. But I want you to know that this administration has made clear to every governor, whatever they need, when they need it... make it known to me, and they will get it to them as rapidly, as rapidly as we can," he said.