Monday, December 13, 2021

Grim Scale of Destruction in Kentucky (VIDEO)

The governor says it'll take years to rebuild.

At NBC News, "‘I’ve got towns that are gone’: Kentucky struggles to count dead after tornadoes."

At at the New York Times, "In Kentucky, Tallying the Grim Scale of Destruction":

MAYFIELD, Ky. — Darryl Johnson didn’t know what his sister did at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory or why she worked nights; he knew only that her husband dropped her off on Friday evening and that they never heard from her again.

He stood in a gravel lot next to the giant ruin of metal and wood, which just days ago was the candle factory where his sister, Janine Johnson-Williams, had clocked in for her shift. The factory where he works, 45 miles up the road, shut down when the storms were approaching, Mr. Johnson said. He could not find anyone in Mayfield to tell him anything.

Late Sunday evening, Mr. Johnson finally got word. His sister was dead.

Sunday was a day of wrenching discoveries across the middle of the country, where an outbreak of tornadoes on Friday night, including one that traveled more than 220 catastrophic miles, left a deep scar of devastation. But as work crews dug through ruins and small-town coroners counted the dead on Sunday, there was at least a glimmer of hope that the death toll may not end up being as enormous as initially feared.

On Sunday evening, Troy Propes, the chief executive of Mayfield Consumer Products, which runs the candle factory that was demolished by the tornado, and which many dread may account for the largest number of deaths in the storm, said in an interview that only eight people had been confirmed dead at the factory and another six remained missing.

Bob Ferguson a company spokesman, said that of the roughly 110 workers who were on the late shift at the factory on Friday night, more than 90 employees had been accounted for.

Still, Gov. Andy Beshear told reporters on Sunday that the state had not confirmed those figures and said that search operations were still underway at the site.

“There have been, I think, multiple bodies,” Mr. Beshear said. “The wreckage is extensive.”

The death toll from the tornado swarm includes people who had been killed in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, but the greatest loss of life was unquestionably in Kentucky, where Mr. Beshear said that at least four counties had tolls in the double digits. A dozen people were killed in Warren County, several of them children; in Muhlenberg County, there were 11 victims, all in the tiny town of Bremen. One was 4 months old.

“We’re still finding bodies,” Mr. Beshear said. “I mean, we’ve got cadaver dogs in towns that they shouldn’t have to be in.”

In Edwardsville, Ill., officials released the names of six people who were killed while working at an Amazon delivery depot that was hit by a tornado. “At this time, there are no additional reports of people missing,” the Edwardsville Police Department said in a statement on Sunday.

More than 50,000 customers were still without power in Kentucky on Sunday afternoon, and more than 150,000 were without power in Michigan, which was also affected by the sprawling storm. Mr. Beshear said that there were “thousands of people without homes” in Kentucky, though the sheer amount of devastation made precise figures, at this point, impossible to come by.

“I don’t think we’ll have seen damage at this scale, ever,” he said.

But even as the accounting of the storm was slowly being made, much was still dreadfully unknown.

In the town of Dawson Springs, where Mr. Beshear’s father was born and where his grandfather owned a funeral home, the list of the missing was eight pages long, single-spaced, the governor said in an interview on CNN.

On Sunday, slabs lay bare on the ground where houses once stood along the streets of Dawson Springs. Mattresses hung in trees and were strewn about the housing lots. Teams hunting for victims and survivors left spray-painted symbols on walls that remained standing.

Families bearing bruises and scrapes from Friday night walked among the wreckage, looking through the rubble for medicine, insurance information and food stamps.

Lacy Duke and her family were searching for two missing cats. In between calling out names, they described 22 seconds of deafening horror on Friday night as they huddled in a storm cellar, and an aftermath that was almost apocalyptic. Their house had folded like an accordion. A mobile home had disappeared. A teenage boy had injured his arm so badly it had to be amputated. The boy’s grandmother had been stuck under a car.

“This year’s been rough,” Ms. Duke said. She had been in a car accident, her son had been sick with Covid-19 and, at the auto part supplier where she had worked, everyone in her department had been laid off. “And then this happened.”

The storm system’s devastation exposed all along its path a late-night world of warehouses and factories on the outskirts of towns and cities, where people worked handling the seasonal traffic of packages or making scented candles for $8 to $12 an hour. A current of anger ran through the communities that were hit badly in the storm, as people demanded to know why so many were still on the job after alarms had sounded about the approaching danger.

At a Sunday morning church service in Granite City, Ill., when the pastor asked for prayers for the loved ones of the six who died in the Amazon warehouse, Paul Reagan, a retired steelworker, raised his hand...