Updated Dec 14, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Tornadoes death toll rises to 88, including 74 killed in Kentucky

An aerial view of a neighborhood in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Dec. 14.
An aerial view of a neighborhood in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Dec. 14. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from last weekend's tornadoes and storms that hit six U.S. states increased to 88 Monday — including 74 in Kentucky, per AP.

The latest: President Biden on Monday night declared a major disaster in Tennessee and issued an emergency declaration in Illinois, along with orders for federal assistance to support recovery efforts in the states, one day after declaring a major disaster in Kentucky.

  • A National Weather Service official in Paducah told CNN a tornado that tore through western Kentucky was "on the ground continuously for at least 128 miles."

What they're saying: Beshear said at an news briefing Tuesday the ages of the victims ranged from 2 months to 98 years and that at least 12 were children.

  • On Monday, Beshear warned that with "this amount of damage and rubble, it may be a week or even more before we have a final count on the number of lost lives."
  • He added that several people were unaccounted for, but rescue crews and authorities were working to find more information on them.
  • "The people of western Kentucky have gone through an unspeakable trauma," Beshear said Monday morning.

The big picture: Tornadoes were also reported in Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, but Kentucky was particularly badly hit.

  • Nearly 24,000 customers were still without power in Kentucky Monday afternoon, per the tracking service poweroutage.us. Officials warned it could be weeks or months before service is restored to the hardest-hit areas.
  • Beshear had warned the death toll from the tornadoes could exceed 100 following concerns that 110 people were in a candle manufacturing factory when a tornado hit.
  • By Monday evening, all workers who were inside the factory had been accounted for, a Mayfield Consumer Products spokesperson told Axios' Shawna Chen. Eight people were confirmed dead and 102 survived, the company said. Beshear said Monday that officials are working to verify the company's report.

Meanwhile, a tornado that struck an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, on Friday night resulted in the deaths of at least six people after a large part of the building collapsed, per the New York Times.

  • Four other storm-related deaths were reported in Tennessee, at least two people were killed in Arkansas and two others in Missouri, AP notes.
  • At least 14 people had died from tornadoes this year until these events, per the NOAA Storm Prediction Center.

What to watch: The National Weather Service in Paducah, Ky., issued a statement Sunday saying the damage was still being assessed. But the damage in several places was at least an EF-3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, which measures the intensity of tornadoes.

  • That means there's been severe damage from estimated wind speeds of at least 136-165 mph.
  • The NWS said initial estimates for the area from Cayce, Ky., to around Beaver Dam, Ky., were that it was hit by an EF-4 tornado — meaning there's "devastating damage."

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Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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