Tornado Death Toll May Be Far Less Than Feared

Tornado Death Toll May Be Far Less Than Feared 1

Fears that 70 or more workers in a Kentucky candle factory were killed by a monster tornado may be thankfully unfounded—though at least eight employees did perish.

Mayfield Consumer Products said Sunday it had accounted for 90 people who escaped the wreckage alive on Friday night. Eight were confirmed dead, and another eight were still missing.

“Many of the employees were gathered in the tornado shelter and after the storm was over they left the plant and went to their homes,” Bob Ferguson, a Mayfield spokesman, told the Associated Press.

“With the power out and no landline they were hard to reach initially. We’re hoping to find more of those eight unaccounted as we try their home residences.”

The new estimate was a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak weekend as six states surveyed the human and structural damage from the extreme weather.

Among the casualties: four members of the same Amish family, the youngest just 4 years old.

Joe Gingrich, his wife, who were both 31, their 7-year-old daughter, and their little boy were killed at home in Graves County, Kentucky, WPSD reported. The family’s bishop told the TV station that three other children survived.

Local residents Darlene Easterwood and Tim Evans embrace after taking part in an outdoor Sunday service with members of First Christian Church and First Presbyterian Church in the aftermath of a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky,

Adrees Latif/Reuters

Another 11 people were killed in the Bowling Green area, where emergency room physician Grant Fraser told ABC News that the patients who flooded TriStar Greenview Regional Medical Center had gruesome injuries.

“They had severe, severe injuries,” he said. “Crush injuries to their head, chest, spinal injuries, multiple penetrating injuries… There’s a combination of both tornado and flying objects penetrating people, blunt force trauma, walls, ceilings that have fallen on people with severe crush injuries.”

Illinois confirmed six deaths, all from an Amazon delivery facility that took a direct hit. Clayton Cope, 29, went to warn colleagues that the twister was on the way and was killed, his family said.

Another victim, 46-year-old Larry Virden, had texted his girlfriend that the company wouldn’t let him leave the warehouse until “after the storm blows over,” she told the New York Post.

It was not clear if six is the final death count or if crews could find more people at the site.

Arkansas confirmed two deaths, Tennessee confirmed four, and Missouri confirmed two.

One of the twisters, dubbed the “quad-state tornado,” may have set a record for the longest continuous tornado in U.S. history, after it tore through Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky without dissipating. Two of the hardest hit towns—Mayfield, Kentucky and Monette, Arkansas—were smack in its path. The previous record is held by the “tri-state tornado” that traveled 219 miles across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana in 1925 and killed 695 people.

Tornado Death Toll May Be Far Less Than Feared 2

The aftermath of the tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Cheney Orr/Reuters

As a sign of its reach, a photo that was carried away by the tornado in Dawson, Kentucky, ended up in New Albany, Indiana—130 miles away.

President Joe Biden said he would visit the region when his large entourage would not hinder rescue and recovery efforts. “This is likely to be one of the largest tornado outbreaks in our history,” he said Saturday.

While it is yet too soon to determine if Friday’s storms are directly related to climate change, Biden suggested they might be. “Well, all I know is the intensity of the weather across the board has some impact as a consequence of the warming of the planet. The specific impact on these specific storms I can’t say at this point. But the fact is we all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming. Everything.”