Kentucky tornado: Warehouse left badly damaged in Mayfield
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Preliminary investigations indicate that four tornadoes hit the southern state, including one that may have stayed on the ground for as long as 200 miles. The worst destruction so far is in Graves County, some 200 miles from St Louis, Missouri, and 140 miles from Nashville, Tennessee.
Damage has been reported across at least 15 counties in the west of the state.
Governor Andy Beshear said at a briefing: “We believe our death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentuckians, probably end up closer to 70 to 100 lost lives.”
He added: “We will make it through this. We will rebuild, we are strong, resilient people.”
He confirmed that four tornadoes hit the stricken county, leaving almost 60,000 residents without power.
READ MORE: US tornadoes kill at least 50 people with 100 still stuck
At the same news conference, Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said the storm represented a “significant massive disaster event.
He said: “All state resources are being brought to bear,” adding that “it’ll be daybreak before we even realise the full magnitude of this event.”
Some 110 people were at a candle factory at the time the tornadoes hit.
Governor Beshear said: “We believe we’ll lose at least dozens of those individuals.”
The worst hit area is the city of Mayfield, which has a population of around 10,000, late on Friday evening.
There have also been fatalities in Arkansas and Illinois, with at least one person was killed in Monette in northeastern Arkansas after a tornado damaged a nursing home Friday.
The storm trapped others inside before being rescued, with at least 20 were also injured.
A woman was killed in a convenience store when the storm hit and she could not escape, according to local officials.
In Illinois, an Amazon warehouse northeast of St Louis was damaged and fatalities have been confirmed.
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At least 24 tornadoes have been reported across five states – Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee.
The longest tornado, currently estimated to have hit ground for an astonishing 230 miles across Arkansas to Kentucky, could be the longest path travelled by a tornado since 1925.
The National Weather Service said Friday night that “tornadic thunderstorms” were moving from eastern Missouri to Illinois over the course of the evening as a line of unstable weather gathered pace as it moved eastward.
Forecasters have said the extreme weather was created by warm air from the Gulf of Mexico interacting with a cold front.
The National Weather Service for the USA has now issued severe thunderstorm warnings for Tennessee, as the front continues to move east.
A tornado watch remains in place for much of the east of the state, as well as Alabama, with residents told to move to an interior room on the lowest floor of a building.
Maps show torrential rainfall and thunderstorms spreading across the affected areas, but the worst of the bad weather is thought to have passed.
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