Tornadoes Rip Through Southern Midwest; States Devastated as Death Toll Rises

Featured, National

Damaged vehicles and personal property are strewn over a wide area by tornadoes. | Image by Greg Eans, The Messenger-Inquirer via AP

A series of tornadoes, with winds reportedly reaching over 150 mph, tore through four Midwest states Friday night.

Dubbed the “Quad-State Tornado,” it is set to break multiple records, such as being the first-ever tornado to pass through 4 states completely. It is not yet known if the tornado was a single twister or numerous, the National Weather Service (NWS) says. If the tornado was a single twister that made contact with the ground during the whole duration, it would break the record for the longest tornado ever recorded, at around 300 miles. The NWS says it touched down in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

The tornado was one of the deadliest in recent history. As of December 12, at least 90 people are reported dead by various state officials. Kentucky bore the brunt of the tornado, with 80 people reported dead there alone. It is hard to imagine the force of such a tornado, as weather data courtesy of the University of Oklahoma shows debris being flung up 37,000 feet in Mayfield, Kentucky, as far up in the atmosphere as jet airplanes fly.

The death toll is set to rise, as rescue missions to recover people underneath the rubble have just begun. The tornado demolished a candle factory in Kentucky and an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. The Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, stated it would be “a miracle” to recover anyone still alive in the factory. There are no official reports on missing people in Kentucky, but Beshear says there are “many.” The aftermath left Beshear at a loss, saying, “It’s devastation like none of us have ever seen before.”

States, even those not directly affected by the tornadoes, are now focusing on recovery and rebuilding. Governor Greg Abbott deployed Texas A&M’s Task Force 1, a FEMA team specializing in urban search and rescue, to Kentucky. Abbott also stated that he is sending supplies and equipment at the request of FEMA.

“The state of Texas stands ready to assist our friends in Kentucky as they continue their response and recovery efforts in the wake of deadly tornadoes that shook the western portion of their state overnight” Abbott said Saturday.

President Biden said he was monitoring the disaster “very closely” and would approve the state’s request for federal aid.

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