A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday night in Mayfield, one of the worst-affected towns in western Kentucky, an area where at least 74 people have lost their lives. Amid prayers and hymns, pastors from churches in the area spoke about the lost and the challenges facing those who are still alive.
As of Monday, power had been restored to about 10,000 Kentucky customers, and about 18,500 active outages, according to state emergency management director Michael Dossett.
These numbers don’t even include Mayfield, a town of 10,000 people, which he says “doesn’t exist”. “The power in the town will take ‘weeks and months’ to rebuild,” he said.
At least 14 others were killed in Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri. An estimated 50 tornadoes hit eight states across the central United States Friday night and Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said more than 500 members of the National Guard were on the ground supporting missions, including search and mining, opening roads and traffic control. .
Dossett said short- and long-term FEMA recovery teams are in Kentucky. The agency has begun a “blue tarpaulin process” to cover damaged homes and is also in the process of removing debris, he added.
Two teams from FEMA will work Wednesday to assess hurricane damage in Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson said. At least 300 structures were affected by the storms, he said, with 61 “completely destroyed”.
President Joe Biden is expected to travel to Kentucky on Wednesday to meet with victims and survey the damage, the White House said.
The president will make sure “we’re doing everything we can to get back to the affected areas as quickly as possible to support recovery efforts,” press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday. “He wants the people on the ground to know the federal government is there to provide any support they need.”
‘I was definitely crushed’
Jim Douglas was so excruciatingly painful as he lay crushed beneath what he believed to be 15-foot-thick debris that he was “praying that God would take me away.” Then the rescuers reached him.
“They are heroes. And not because they saved me, but because they saved so many people,” Douglas told CNN.
In an interview from his hospital bed, where he was recovering from nerve damage and slowly regaining use of his arms and legs, Douglas described how an inner wall fell on top of him, hitting his head and throwing he fell to the ground.
“It was so fast. It was like the different layers would fall off and I could feel my body wanting to get slimmer,” he said. “I was definitely crushed.”
He said that after he heals, he plans to continue working.
“Eventually I will walk and I will work somewhere, I promise you,” Douglas said.
The reported deaths include 2-month-old infants
Other deaths are being reported in western Kentucky following a string of hurricanes.
2-month-old Oaklynn Koon died Monday morning from the injuries she sustained when a tornado hit her grandmother’s home in Dawson Springs, the little girl’s paternal grandmother Audrey Carman told CNN.
Koon’s parents tried to protect their children by making them hide in the bathtub and covering them with couch cushions, but the tornado swept through the house and the family made landfall on the other side of the house. neighbors, Carman said.
“We don’t get to spend a lot of time with her, but we love the time we spend with her,” Carman told CNN.
About 70 miles east of Dawson Springs, six family members lost their lives when a tornado hit their home in Bowling Green, a relative told CNN.
Rachael Brown, 36, and Steven Brown, 35, were with their four children and Rachael’s mother, Victoria Smith, 64, when a tornado hit their home.
Three adults and three children – Nariah Cayshelle, 16, Nolynn, 8, and Nyles, 4 – were killed in the tornado, Rachael Brown’s aunt, Dornicho Jackson McGee, told CNN. The couple’s 13-year-old daughter is still missing.
“They are very family-oriented. They love their family. They love their children,” says McGee.
CNN’s Brynn Gingras, Sarah Boxer, Caroll Alvarado, Jenn Selva, Tina Burnside, Nikki Carvajal, Amy Simonson and Joseph Bonheim contributed to this report.