Tornadoes Leave Trail of Devastation Across Six States, With Scores Dead

Officials said there were at least 70 deaths in Kentucky, where many had been trapped inside a flattened candle factory, and there were six fatalities in a roof collapse at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois after severe weather ravaged the country on Friday.

‘We need your prayers.’ Residents begin digging out and assessing the toll from tornadoes.


Residents survey the damage after a tornado ripped through Mayfield, Ky.

Dozens of people were feared dead, and communities across the Midwest and South were digging through rubble on Saturday after a string of unseasonably powerful storms and tornadoes swept across six states overnight.

Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said that at least 70 had been killed, and the state’s death toll could increase to more than 100. The state was hit by four tornadoes, he said, including one that stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles.

In Mayfield, Ky., about 110 people had huddled inside a candle-making factory when a tornado ripped through it. About 40 people were rescued, but Mr. Beshear said he believed “dozens” had been killed there. At a news briefing on Saturday, shaken local officials said they were struggling to comb through the debris amid blocked roads and lost water and electrical service.

“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” Mr. Beshear said at the briefing. “The level of devastation is unlike anything I have ever seen.”

Other states were also hit hard. Officials said that at least six people had been killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois, four had died in Tennessee and two had died in Arkansas.

Maps: Where the Tornadoes Struck, Destroying Buildings and Homes

More than 80 people were killed by tornadoes across at least six states Friday night and early Saturday morning.

The storms — dark and immense funnel clouds that roared across the nighttime landscape — obliterated homes, churches and businesses, set buildings on fire and knocked a train with 28 empty rail cars from its tracks, leaving unearthly scenes of destruction.

In Mayfield, among the hardest-hit communities, the center of town had become a perilous maze of downed utility lines, dangling tree limbs and scattered debris. Jesse Perry, the judge executive in Graves County, which includes Mayfield, said local officials were “in the trenches, trying to find people.”

“We need your prayers,” he said, voice wavering at a news conference on Saturday. “We need your help.”

President Biden said that he had approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky, allowing federal resources to flow into the state.

“We’re going to get through this, and we’re going to get through this together,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference. “The federal government is not going to walk away.”

Mandi Sanders, who works at the home, said staff members helped residents cover their heads with pillows to protect them from flying glass and debris before the walls caved in and parts of the roof collapsed.

In Arkansas, a 94-year-old died and five people were injured when a tornado demolished the Monette Manor nursing home, said Monette’s mayor, Bob Blankenship.

“It was like a roaring train,” she said. “I didn’t think it would ever end.”

A person was also killed at a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville, Ark., Gov. Asa Hutchinson said.

“Probably the most remarkable thing is that there’s not a greater loss of life,” Mr. Hutchinson said at a news briefing.

Scientists are not sure whether there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes, in part because of limited data. But researchers say that in recent years tornadoes seem to be occurring in greater “clusters,” and that a so-called tornado alley in the Great Plains — where most tornadoes occur — appears to be shifting eastward.

At least six states — Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee — were hit by tornadoes on Friday night, according to reports from the National Weather Service.

The tornadoes were part of a weather system that was wreaking havoc in many parts of the country, causing substantial snowfall across parts of the upper Midwest and western Great Lakes, said Bill Bunting, the operations chief at the Storm Prediction Center.

The Edwardsville Police Department in Illinois said early Saturday that the storms had resulted in “catastrophic damage to a significant portion” of an Amazon warehouse. Six people were killed and 45 people were confirmed to have escaped the building, James Whiteford, the fire chief, said at a news conference on Saturday evening.

“Earlier this afternoon, the response portion of this incident came to a close, and we’re now focused solely on recovery,” Chief Whiteford said. The authorities will continue to search for people for the next three days during daylight hours, he said.

Complicating rescue efforts were thousands of power outages across the region. About 77,000 customers in Kentucky and 53,000 customers in Tennessee were without power as of Saturday evening, according to

At least 70 are dead in Kentucky, in ‘the most devastating tornado event’ in state history.


Deadly Tornadoes Slam Six States

A massive search-and-rescue operation is underway after several tornadoes ripped through Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history. And for those that have seen it, what it’s done here in Grace County and elsewhere, it is indescribable.” “Everywhere along the line of this tornado that touched down and stayed down for 227 miles over 200 in Kentucky has been severely and significantly impacted.” “I have talked to the secretary of Homeland Security, while I have been here, he has pledged his full support and we are hearing that from every part of the federal administration and from our U.S. senators and from our congressmen.

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A massive search-and-rescue operation is underway after several tornadoes ripped through Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

At least 70 people were killed in the deadly tornado that struck Kentucky on Friday, and the death toll could rise to more than 100 across about 10 counties, Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky said on Saturday.

“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” Mr. Beshear said at a news conference in Mayfield, a town of nearly 10,000 people in the state’s western corner, and where most of the tornado’s destruction was centered. He declared a state of emergency on Friday, and rescuers in counties across the state mobilized overnight, contending with darkness, powerful wind and driving rain to try to find people trapped in collapsed houses and buildings.

There were four tornadoes that touched down in the state on Friday night, Mr. Beshear said, including one that stayed on the ground for 227 miles — 200 of them in Kentucky.

Search and rescue teams were continuing to look for residents door to door, but the destruction made it difficult to reach everyone, Mr. Beshear said. “We call it door to door, but in many of those homes, there’s no door any more,” he said.

In Mayfield, in what may be the single largest loss of life on Friday, 110 workers were trapped inside a candle factory when the tornado roared through in the evening.

Kyanna Parsons Perez and other workers were sheltering inside a safety area at the Mayfield candle factory when the tornado hit.

“My ears start popping and then the building, it was like we rocked back and forth and then boom — everything just fell down on us,” said Ms. Perez.

Suddenly, Ms. Perez found herself under five feet of debris, pinned under a water fountain and an air conditioning unit.

“It was terrifying,” Ms. Perez said. “And that’s the only word I can use to describe it. It was absolutely terrifying.”

For nearly three hours, she remained under the rubble as her co-workers screamed and called out for one another. She remained conscious throughout and was able to move her upper back and arms. She used her phone to contact her family and to share the experience on Facebook live as rescue workers began clearing the debris.

“I was scared that them moving the stuff around there was going to cause everything to collapse on me,” Ms. Perez said. She sustained no serious injuries.

About 40 people were rescued, officials said, but the last person found alive was pulled out at 3:30 a.m. Mr. Beshear said he expected that “dozens” of others had not survived. Officials at the news conference said the factory had been flattened, and that cars and rubble had blown on top of what remained.

“We’re going to lose a lot of lives in that factory,” Mr. Beshear said. “It’s a very dire situation at this point.”

Mike Dossett, Kentucky’s emergency director, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending a search team to the candle factory.

The city’s police chief, Nathan Kent, said that Mayfield and surrounding areas affected by the tornado would be under 7 p.m. curfew.

The biggest challenge in the coming days, he said, will be communication, because the force’s vehicular fleet was “compromised” by the tornado.

About 28,000 people across the state were expected to be without electricity Saturday night.

More than 180 members of the National Guard have been dispatched to assist with the search for survivors and to assist in getting people to safety. The authorities asked residents who are not emergency responders to stay out of the affected areas.

Michael E. Dossett, the director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said the number of storms could surpass the 1974 super outbreak of tornadoes. He also said that the length of one tornado’s track could rival that of the 1925 tornado outbreak that killed hundreds as it cut a path through Southern and Midwestern states.

“It is a significant, massive disaster event,” Mr. Dossett said.

‘Our church is totally gone’: Tornado changes the landscape of a Kentucky town.


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The footage shows the aftermath of the deadly tornado in Mayfield

MAYFIELD, Ky. — The grid of narrow streets in the heart of Mayfield, Ky., had become a perilous maze of downed utility lines, dangling tree limbs and scattered debris. Yet residents were out on Saturday morning, struggling to maneuver around it all, anguished by the aftermath of the tornado that had shredded their community.

As the sun rose in Mayfield, a town of 10,000 people in the western corner of Kentucky, residents could see for the first time the destruction they had heard the night before as the storm descended in the darkness with its howling winds and the crunching and groaning of homes and businesses being torn apart.

Some of the largest buildings in town had been leveled or were close to it. Mayfield First United Methodist Church, a cavernous sanctuary with a stone facade, had almost entirely collapsed. Other buildings had been reduced to piles of red bricks.

The rolling pastures and quiet woods that surround Mayfield had been left muddy and with a dusting of leaves but were otherwise intact. But on the two-line highways snaking into town, the tornado’s wrath announced itself with the vistas of homes that had their brick exteriors shaved off, churches with roofs peeled away and seemingly sturdy trees that had been snapped at their trunks like twigs.

D.J. Swant hurried into her cellar at around 9 p.m. on Friday. The local authorities had stressed just how bad the storm could be.

“We took them at their word, and thank God we did,” she said.

Her bed had been showered with limbs and glass from broken windows. The balcony was gone. Chimneys crumbled. A towering column had been shifted out of place.

Ms. Swant, a retired health-care administrator from the Milwaukee area, moved with her husband to Mayfield six years ago, fleeing the bitter cold of Wisconsin but more than anything lured by the grand old house, built in 1890. It had the balcony, seven fire places and some 6,000 square feet. Her neighbors called it Dr. Jackson’s house, named after a longtime resident.

After they moved in, people in the town stopped by and talked to her and her husband. They wanted to see the improvements the Swants had made to the house and thank them for putting in the effort to bring back an historic house that had sat empty for years.

On Saturday, neighbors were pulling up yet again, this time to see how she was doing.

“Our church is totally gone,” one neighbor who pulled up in a truck told Ms. Swant. “Nothing was salvageable except for the communion table.”

“That’s one of the reasons I love this place,” Ms. Swant said after the truck pulled away. “We’ll be OK,” she added. “We’ll be OK. It’ll take a while. But we’ll be OK.”

At least six people died after an Amazon warehouse in Illinois took a direct hit.


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Aerial footage by a local news outlet showing damage caused by severe weather to an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Ill. Officials said there were “confirmed fatalities” after a roof collapsed at the warehouse.

At least six people were killed at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois after a direct hit from a tornado caused a major portion of the building to collapse on Friday night, officials said.

Forty-five people were confirmed to have made it out the building, James Whiteford, the fire chief in Edwardsville, Ill., said at a news conference on Saturday. The authorities said they did not know how many people were inside the warehouse when the storm hit, so they did not know how many more people they were looking for.

Edwardsville sits about 25 miles east of St. Louis, and the Amazon building is in a distribution hub on the west side of town. When the tornado swept through around 8:35 p.m., it caused the walls of the building to fall inward and the roof to collapse, Chief Whiteford said, adding that the walls were about 40 feet tall and made of 11-inch-thick concrete.

“At this point we have transitioned to search and recovery,” the chief said. “We don’t expect that anyone could be surviving at this point.” He said that search efforts would continue for the next three days during daylight hours.

Where Tornadoes Were Reported

More than 40 tornadoes were reported across at six states Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Source: National Weather Service

The New York Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois said that he had spoken with President Biden and Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and that he had also spoken to an official from Amazon.

Mr. Pritzker said he urged the company “to provide every assistance to this community, which they have said they intend to do.”

Alonzo Harris, an Amazon delivery driver, finished his route on Friday night and pulled into the warehouse when an alarm started to sound from his work phone. A colleague was running around and yelling at drivers that this was not a drill, he said. They needed to get out of their vehicles and seek shelter, he recalled her yelling.

“She put her own self at risk,” said Mr. Harris, a 44-year-old St. Louis resident who has worked at Amazon since September. “She saved my life.”

Moments after Mr. Harris entered the shelter, there was a “loud roaring noise” and the building started to shake, he said.

“I felt like the floor was coming off the ground,” he said. “I felt the wind blowing and saw debris flying everywhere, and people started screaming and hollering and the lights went out.”

Mr. Harris likened the sensation to earthquakes in California, where he grew up. “When the ground was shaking, that’s what it felt like,” he said. “I’m not afraid of nothing, but that was scary.”

On Saturday morning, workers appeared to be using a crane to clear wreckage from the site. Heavy machinery was brought in to move the collapsed walls, and rescue teams were checking inside vehicles that had been crushed by the walls.

“We’re deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, Ill.,” Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokeswoman, said in a statement on Saturday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones and everyone impacted by the tornado.”

Amazon opened two warehouses in Edwardsville in 2016, employing about 2,200 people, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in 2017.

When Amazon opened the facilities, “it put us on the map,” Walter Williams, the economic development coordinator for Madison County, which includes Edwardsville, said on Saturday. “When more people saw Amazon here, they started saying, ‘We need to look there.’”

Storms kill at least 4 in Tennessee as winds exceed 80 miles per hour.


At least four people in Tennessee were confirmed dead on Saturday after storms roared through the state overnight, officials said.

Another 10 people were injured, and an additional 64 people were described by Alex Pellom, the chief of staff for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, as “walking wounded.” In Lake County, one person was missing.

“We’re reminded that in just a moment, livelihoods are lost and lives are changed forever, and we saw that across our state today,” Gov. Bill Lee said at a news conference in Nashville.

Sirens had howled overnight in the state as the winds swept through, climbing to faster than 80 miles per hour.

Lake and Obion Counties, as well as the town of Dresden, in Weakley County, sustained the most damage, Mr. Lee said. All three counties are in the northwestern corner of the state.

Tens of thousands of homes in Tennessee remained without power on Saturday night, and officials were just beginning to assess the damage, which Mr. Lee said was in the “multiple millions of dollars.” .

One person is killed and two are injured in a Missouri town near St. Louis.

One person was killed and two others were injured after a tornado touched down in Defiance, Mo., just west of St. Louis, on Friday night.

The person who died was one of two of the victims taken to a trauma center in St. Louis. The third sustained minor injuries after part of a building collapsed.

The tornado touched down around 8 p.m. near Route 94 and Highway F in Defiance. Several homes were damaged, and although the highway was cleared by Saturday morning, the extent of the destruction had not yet been determined, said Mary Enger, director of communications for St. Charles County.

“Workers are out here, but we are still assessing the damage,” she said.

Emergency services and local fire departments were involved in the rescue effort, said Kyle Gaines, the director of community relations for the St. Charles County Ambulance District. District authorities were also in touch with local utility companies, including Ameren.

“Whenever we develop our list of what-ifs, tornadoes are always up there, so this is a scenario we plan and prepare for,” Mr. Gaines said. “The people involved train year-round for these kinds of situations.”

In Tennessee, a woman was pinned under her mobile home.


A woman in Cheatham County, Tenn., a rural area about 30 miles west of Nashville, was pinned under her mobile home for 20 minutes early Saturday after a tornado’s violent winds picked the building off its foundation and threw it on top of her. She had been trying to leave after receiving an alert about the storm.

“The trailer ended up on top of her, pinning her down from the waist down,” said Ken Miller, a lieutenant with the Cheatham County sheriff’s office. The woman was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and was in stable condition, he said.

There were no other fatalities or injuries reported in the county, Lieutenant Miller said, but the destruction was severe. Between 200 and 300 homes were damaged there, with roofs torn off, sheds and barns toppled, power lines down, and trees upended, tearing water lines up with them.

As many as 18 tornadoes hit Middle Tennessee overnight, and the one that hit Cheatham County “was on the ground for a long time,” according to Lieutenant Miller.

“At times it was anywhere from a quarter to half to three quarters of a mile wide,” he said. “It was very monstrous.”

To access the hardest hit areas of the county, rescue workers used chainsaws to cut through nearly seven miles of downed trees. On Saturday, they continued to check damaged homes for remaining residents.

As storm warnings emerged Friday afternoon and ominous warm temperatures fell over the county, some residents left for other parts of the state. That helped keep injuries minimal, Lieutenant Miller said.

He said he believed their caution resulted from another natural disaster: Severe flooding killed over 20 people in nearby towns in August.

“People saw this time that things are different now,” Lieutenant Miller said. “Because of the weather being so severe lately, if they see severe weather they want to get somewhere else.”

Forecasters predict more inclement weather over the weekend.


As residents in at least five U.S. states assessed the damage on Saturday from a spree of powerful storms and tornadoes, forecasters warned of more inclement weather looming across the country.

There was a slight risk of severe storms for parts of the Southeast and Tennessee Valley on Saturday night, the National Weather Service said in an advisory at 2:39 p.m. Eastern time.

At least five states were swept by tornadoes on Friday, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.

But the “main weather threats over the next couple days” were severe thunderstorms in the East and heavy snow in the West, specifically over the Sierra Nevada, the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies, according to the weather service.

Damaging wind gusts were expected to hit much of the Mid-Atlantic on Saturday night, and heavy coastal rain was predicted in central California on Sunday and Monday.

“Flash flooding will be a concern for these places, and particularly for burn scar areas where debris buildup can pose a threat to life and property,” the forecast said.

Heavy rain was expected to spread into central and Southern California by Monday night, the advisory said.

Tornado outbreaks seem to be occurring in greater ‘clusters,’ but the role that climate change plays in them is unclear.


Tornadoes are relatively localized short-lived weather events. And scientists are not yet able to determine whether there is a link between climate change and the frequency or strength of tornadoes, in part because they have a limited data record.

But researchers say that in recent years tornadoes seem to be occurring in greater “clusters,” and that a so-called tornado alley in the Great Plains — where most tornadoes occur — appears to be shifting eastward.

“This is what we would call a tornado outbreak, where you have a storm system which produces a number of tornadoes over a large geographical area,” Dan Pydynowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather, said on Friday.

But such a large and powerful system in December is highly unusual, and something the region usually experiences in May or April.

“It’s certainly not unheard-of,” he said of tornadoes this late in the year, “but to have an outbreak of this magnitude, with this many tornado reports — it’s a little unusual for this time of year.”

Temperatures in Arkansas and Kansas on Friday were “spring weather,” Mr. Pydynowski said. Highs were in the 70s and 80s.

“It was unusually warm, and there was moisture in place,” he said, “and you had a strong cold front endThese are the ingredients for big storms in the spring, but not in mid-December.”

Even though scientists are observing more clusters, it is unclear the role that climate change plays. “For a lot of our questions about climate change and tornadoes, the answer is we don’t know,” said Harold Brooks, a senior research scientist at NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory. “We don’t see evidence for changes in average annual occurrence or intensity over the last 40 to 60 years.”

In recent years, scientists have been able to draw links between a warming planet and hurricanes, heat waves and drought, attributing the likelihood that climate change played a role in isolated events.

“This is the hardest phenomenon to connect to climate change,” said Michael Tippett, an associate professor of applied physics and mathematics at Columbia University who studies extreme weather and climate.

The complexity of tornadoes, as well as a more limited data record, makes those types of studies challenging to perform.

The tornado record is still sparse compared with other types of events. One reason for this might be that tornadoes are relatively local weather events. Tornado records have largely been based on someone seeing a tornado and reporting it to the National Weather Service. This means that smaller tornadoes that occur in rural areas and have not caused property damage or injury may not be reported.

“We are pretty sure we know how many hurricanes make landfall in the United States each year,” Dr. Brooks said. “With tornadoes, we may not know how many occurred yesterday and last night.”

A more significant problem, however, is the complexity of tornadoes themselves. There are several ingredients that give rise to tornadoes, including warm, moist air at the ground level, cool dry air aloft, and wind shear, or the change in wind speed or direction, each of which may be affected differently by climate change.

A tornado’s small size also makes it harder to model, the primary tool that scientists use when attributing climate change to extreme weather events.

Still, Dr. Tippett said that based on all the evidence, computer modeling shows that the environmental conditions favorable to tornadoes may increase in the future. “Our confidence is low, but the evidence points to the same direction.”

What happened?

A tornado outbreak tore through several states on Friday night. At least six were struck, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The tornadoes were part of a weather system that was wreaking havoc in many parts of the country, causing substantial snowfall across parts of the upper Midwest and western Great Lakes.

Dozens of people were killed.

Kentucky’s governor said on Saturday morning that at least 70 people had been killed in a tornado’s path of over 200 miles, and that the state’s death toll could increase to more than 100.

A tornado caused the walls and roof of an Amazon warehouse in Illinois to collapse, leaving workers trapped inside. At least six people died, and recovery efforts were ongoing.

Four people died in Tennessee. In Arkansas, at least one person was killed at a nursing home in Monette, and another at a Dollar General store in nearby Leachville.

Across the affected states, the total number of people killed and injured was not yet known, and search-and-rescue operations were continuing in several places on Saturday.

What’s the damage like?

Officials across the six-state area were still assessing the extent of the damage on Saturday. Local news reports and videos on social media showed crumbled buildings and downed trees across the storm’s path.

As of Saturday night, there were about 77,000 customers without power in Kentucky and 53,000 in Tennessee, according to

The storms also caused a freight train to derail, although no injuries were reported.

How common are tornadoes in December


Although severe tornadoes are rare in December, the cluster that hit at least five states on Friday was not unprecedented.

Here’s a roundup of some notable tornadoes and tornado clusters that have hit the United States in December.


A band of tornadoes ripped across Alabama, killing 12 people; the deadliest of the storms struck a Tuscaloosa trailer park and an upscale neighborhood nearby.


Tornadoes pummeled Mississippi, Tennessee and several other states before Christmas, causing more than a dozen deaths, and reducing homes and businesses to rubble.

Dallas also experienced a deadly outbreak of nearly a dozen tornadoes later that week that left 13 people dead, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration database, sweeping across more than 100 miles. It was the deadliest tornado system to hit the Dallas area since 1927, the National Weather Service wrote in a post on Twitter at the time.


Stormy weather coincided with the Christmas season again, when a rare tornado touched down in Port Orchard, just west of Seattle, and several low-intensity tornadoes touched down in Florida, damaging more than 70 homes in a mobile home park.

Earlier that month, tornadoes also swept through central and southwest Illinois; at the time, the National Weather Service called it the state’s largest December outbreak since 1957.

On the same day, a tornado struck a motel in Lawrence County, Mo., according to the NOAA database, leaving one man dead.


A day of multiple tornadoes mid-month, across four Southern states, left three people dead, according to the NOAA database, in Lawrence County, Ala., and Vernon Parish, La.

Pledging Federal Aid, President Says ‘Our Citizens Are Badly, Badly Hurt.’

Biden Pledges Aid to States Hit by Deadly Tornadoes

President Biden said federal search-and-rescue teams had been deployed to the affected areas.

I want to provide an update on the deadly and devastating tornadoes that have moved across several states, in the central United States, including touching down across 227 miles of Kentucky alone. I’m monitoring the situation very closely, since early this morning. This is likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history. Earlier today, I called the governors of the states that have been experiencing severe impacts of the storms, including Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri as well as Tennessee. And I also spoke with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Jill and I pray, and I sincerely mean this, pray for those who’ve lost loved ones and for those who are uncertain of the fate of their loved ones, and the debris that you see scattered all over the hurricanes’ path. They lost their homes. They lost their businesses. And it’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy. And we still don’t know how many lives were lost or the full extent of the damage. But I want to emphasize what I told all the governors: The federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help. I’ve spoken several times a day with the head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management agency, as well as the director of FEMA, who has already been deployed — already deployed emergency response personnel to these states, search and rescue teams, water and other supplies. And FEMA is on the ground working with each of the states to assess the damages and focus on federal support where it is needed most and how we can get there most rapidly. I also approved the emergency declaration that was requested a couple of hours ago by Governor Beshear of Kentucky. That’s going to accelerate federal emergency assistance for Kentucky right now, when it’s urgently needed. And I stand ready to do the same for the governors of the other states.

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President Biden said federal search-and-rescue teams had been deployed to the affected areas.CreditCredit…Tom Brenner for The New York Times

President Biden on Saturday said his administration will do “everything it can possibly do to help” several states suffering from a tornado outbreak that left dozens dead, as federal officials were deployed to help local emergency personnel search for the missing.

“I want folks in all these states to know we’re going to get through this, we’re going to get through this together, and the federal government is not going to walk away,” Mr. Biden said during a speech from Wilmington, Del., where he was spending the weekend.

Mr. Biden on Saturday also approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky, where at least 70 people were killed, a death toll that the state’s governor, Andy Beshear, said was expected to rise. The declaration, which must first be requested by states, allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency to dispatch additional equipment, funds and resources to the state.

“That’s going to accelerate federal emergency assistance for Kentucky right now when it’s urgently needed, and I stand ready to do the same for the governors of the other states,” Mr. Biden said, adding that he asked FEMA to provide temporary housing to the state.

Mr. Biden earlier in the day spoke to the governors of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee to ask “how he can be most supportive,” according to a statement from the White House. He also spoke to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky.

The president later told reporters that he told Mr. Beshear that he would visit the damaged areas when the governors were ready so that his presence is not a distraction.

Two FEMA teams were on their way to Kentucky to assist with coordinating the recovery effort, and other teams prepared to assess the damage were “ready to deploy to Kentucky or any other affected areas,” according to a statement from the agency.

“My heart is with the people of Kentucky after the devastating tornadoes last night,” said Deanne Criswell, the administrator of FEMA.

Asked about the connection between the tornado outbreak and climate change, Mr. Biden said he did not yet have information to outline the cause of these specific storms.

“But the fact is that we all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming,” Mr. Biden said. “Everything. And, obviously, it has some impact here. But I can’t give you a quantitative read on that.”

Mr. Biden has often been commended for his ability to empathize with victims during moments of tragedy. On Saturday, he described how Mr. Beshear said the area looked like a “war zone.”

“Our citizens are badly, badly hurt, and they’re scared to death right now in terms of all those folks that they can’t figure where they are,” Mr. Biden said. “Where’s my son, my daughter, my husband, my wife, my mom, my dad? It’s devastating.”

Hundreds of thousands are without electricity across four states.

Hundreds of thousands of people across four states remained without electricity on Saturday evening, hours after a cluster of deadly tornadoes cut a swath across much of the Midwest and South and as continued strong winds hampered efforts to restore power, officials said.

In Michigan, about 318,000 households were without power. In Ohio, another 111,000 households were in the dark, and in Indiana, 26,000, according to, a website that aggregates data from utilities across the United States.

And in New York, the New York State Electric and Gas, a utility company, said about 19,300 households mostly in and near Buffalo, were affected by power outages late Saturday afternoon.

Western New York, Indiana and Michigan remained under wind advisories on Saturday evening, with wind gusts as high as 64 miles per hour reported in Michigan, according to the National Weather Service.

Across Indiana, strong winds were impeding power restoration efforts, said Michael Bianski, a senior communications consultant for the energy provider, Indiana Michigan Power. He said utility workers, who are used to working in difficult conditions, could not safely use the boom lift on trucks to repair power lines. Plus, partially broken limbs and branches continued to be at risk of falling.

“You can still have stuff come down on power lines even if you just restored it five minutes ago,” Mr. Bianski said.

DTE Energy, which provides much of the electricity to the southeastern part of Michigan, said on Twitter that the high winds had downed more than 500 wires, broken poles and caused tree-related damage. The utility company deployed more than 1,500 employees to help restore power.

Rich Otto, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, said the storm system that produced the tornadoes stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast.

By Saturday evening, the storm was moving northeast toward Canada.

Arab Observer

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