Dec 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Kentucky governor a week after deadly tornadoes: "We will dig out"

Picture of a woman standing among wreckage from the Kentucky tornadoes
Amanda Coffey searches for her grandmother's possessions after her apartment was destroyed during Friday's tornado in Dawson Springs, Ky. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Nearly a week after deadly tornadoes ripped through western Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Friday promised residents, "we will dig out."

The big picture: At least 77 people in Kentucky were killed when tornadoes hit last Friday into Saturday, Beshear said. The storm is the deadliest tornado event in modern state history, the National Weather Service in Louisville confirmed, pointing to official records that began in the 1950s.

  • The previous deadliest outbreak in modern history was in 1974, when tornadoes killed 71 people in the state. The NWS noted that the 1890 outbreak in Kentucky may have killed over 100 people, but it hit before official records were kept.
  • The ages of the victims from last weekend's event ranged from 2 months to 98 years and at least 12 were children, state officials said this week.

Our thought bubble via Axios' Andrew Freedman: Despite accurate, timely tornado warnings, the loss of life was high.

  • This was largely because the storms struck at night, were extremely powerful and were moving quickly.

What they're saying: “As we sit here almost one week to the day after the worst tornado disaster the state has ever seen, we are digging out,” Beshear said Friday.

  • “Yes, we are down. Yes, we are hurting, but we are not defeated, and we are not broken. Together, we will dig out. Together, we will clean up, and together, we will rebuild both structures and lives.”

President Biden on Wednesday visited Kentucky, calling what affected families in the hard-hit areas are going through "a God-awful mess."

  • During his visit, Biden said his administration would continue to work alongside state officials as recovery efforts continue.
  • "We're going to get this done. I promise you — the governor is not walking away, your county judge is not walking away, your congressman is not walking away. No one's walking away. We're in this for the long haul," Biden said at a press conference in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, on Wednesday. "Keep the faith."

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