Tornados devastated parts of several states across the Midwest and South last night, killing dozens of people — with at least 70 dead in Kentucky and more feared dead and trapped in an Amazon warehouse in Illinois.
Some of the worst damage seems to have been done in Mayfield, Kentucky, a small city in the southwest of the state, where about 110 people sheltered in a local candle-making factory as a tornado touched down, leaving the downtown area a labyrinth of downed utility lines, dangling trees and ripped-apart rooftops, according to the New York Times. Forty of those people were later rescued, and dozens may have been killed there, the paper reported.
Kentucky’s governor, Andy Beshear, declared a state of emergency there, and said at least 70 people had been killed in a tornado’s 200-mile path across the state. Calling it “the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” he said the death toll could increase to more than 100.
“The level of devastation is unlike anything I have ever seen,” he said.
At least four other states were hit by the tornados, according to the Times, with Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee all reporting the deadly funnels that were part of a weather system that had already wreaked havoc with substantial snowfall across the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes, according to the paper.
Officials also confirmed fatalities at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, where police said there was catastrophic damage to a large portion of the building. A search-and-rescue operation was underway there on Saturday afternoon, the paper reported.
As of Saturday morning, power was reported out in 140,000 homes in Tennessee, 92,000 in Kentucky, 23,000 in Arkansas, 16,000 in Illinois, and 10,000 in Missouri.
Meteorologists called last night’s twisters a “tornado outbreak” that occurs when a storm system produces several tornados over a large geographical area. Researchers have noted that in recent years, tornados seemed to be occurring in greater clusters and that the Great Plains’ so-called “tornado alley” is now shifting eastward. But experts are not sure if there is a link between that shift and climate change because of limited data on the subject.
[New York Times] — Vince DiMiceli