By: B.J. Bethel
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear said 64 Kentuckians were confirmed dead and over 100 were unaccounted for as of Monday morning. He made the remarks at a morning press conference updating rescue and cleanup efforts after the state was pummeled by tornadoes on Friday.
Beshear said people were killed in at least eight counties while 18 counties suffered damage from the storms. At least four tornadoes hit the state, including one that traveled over 200 miles and destroyed the town of Mayfield.
An emotional Beshear said 18 of the dead were still unidentified. Victims ranged from 5 months old to 86 years old. He said six of the victims were under the age of 18.
Beshear said the death toll could rise to over 70 people and possibly to 80. This was after fears over the weekend that the number of dead could rise to over 100.
“The people of Western Kentucky have gone through an unspeakable trauma,” Beshear said during Monday’s press conference. “It’s traumatic just being there helping. You go from grief, to shock, to being resolute – all in a span of 10 minutes. And then you go back. It’s hard to understand how or why something like this happens. It’s just awful.”
Beshear said the owners of the Mayfield candle factory that was destroyed reported 94 workers have been accounted for, while eight were killed and another eight were still missing. He said the state was working to confirm the numbers with the Mayfield Consumer Products company, which owns the factory.
“We pray it’s true,” Beshear said. “We feared much, much worse.”
In other information from the news conference:
- Beshear said the state parks are open to people who need housing. Pennyrile Forest State Park would guarantee two weeks of stay for those affected by the storms. The state is trying to restore power to Lake Barkley State Park, which would open up 50 rooms.
- The state needs volunteers to help with staffing at the state parks. To volunteer, call Kentucky Resort Parks Assistant Director Andy Kasitz at 502-418-4581 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The state has established its own relief fund for tornado victims. People can donate at TeamWKYReliefFund.ky.gov. Beshear said the site has already raised $4 million.
- Funeral payments: The state will donate $5,000 to families for funerals of victims. Beshear said the state is also working with funeral homes to keep the cost of funerals at around $5,000 so the benefit covers the complete cost.
- According to Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said 28,500 homes in the state are without power. There’s approximately 8,000 utility poles down. Ninety-five percent of potential impacted powerlines have been assessed. Ninety-seven power structures have been damaged.
- Beshear said FEMA would work with municipalities and counties to reimburse 75 percent of the cost of cleaning up debris.
- Beshear said corporations have been reaching out to him constantly looking to help. He said he received a voicemail from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy.
Beshear said he happened to write down the latest death totals on the back of notes one of his children had taken for class. The notes were about the law of inertia.
“When an object is in motion, it stays in motion,” Beshear said. “We are going to put one foot in front of the other. To the people of Western Kentucky, we aren’t going anywhere.”
Reposted with permission from WCPO 9 Cincinnati