FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says that as of this afternoon, the state’s death toll from the storms has risen to 74, 69 of whom have been identified, and the state has at least 109 Kentuckians still missing.
Beshear says Kentucky State Police ask that those trying to find their missing loved ones report to the office building of His House Ministries at 1250 KY 303 in Mayfield to provide a reference to law enforcement for identification.
The governor’s office says the newly confirmed deaths include one in Franklin County who works at the state’s Capitol Complex.
Michael Dossett, the director of Kentucky Emergency Management, says five tornadoes have been confirmed in Kentucky so far, but the National Weather Service is still conducting its surveys to learn more about the event.
Beshear has declared a state of emergency in the counties impacted. During this morning’s update, Gracia Szczech with the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced President Joe Biden had made a major declaration that included the eight Kentucky counties of Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Hopkins, Marshall, Muhlenberg, Taylor and Warren. She added FEMA and Kentucky officials will be assessing other counties hit by the storms to get them added into the declaration. Counties the state is currently asking to be added include Boyle, Breckinridge, Bullitt, Casey, Christian, Edmonson, Grayson, Green, Hardin, Hart, Hickman, Livingston, Logan, Lyon, Marion, Monroe, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer and Todd counties.
Biden will also visit the state on Wednesday as part of a trip through all affected states to survey the damage. His stop in Kentucky will begin at Fort Campbell for a briefing on the damage, then he will go to Mayfield and Dawson Springs.
Individuals and business owners who experienced losses can apply for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov. The state has also started a relief fund for those impacted. Those who want to donate to that fund can visit TeamWKYReliefFund.ky.gov. The fund has already raised more than $6 million through more than 40,000 donations.
Kentucky First Lady Britainy Beshear also announced the launch of the Western Kentucky Toy Drive to help the families who lost so much in the tornadoes just weeks before Christmas. The state will be accepting donations from tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 14 to Saturday, Dec. 18. The drive is collecting items for children from infants to teenagers including toys, books, electronics, and $25 VISA or Mastercard gift cards.
All items donated must be unwrapped, but Kentuckians can also donate wrapping materials such as paper and bows along with their items. The first lady says multiple law enforcement agencies will be accepting the donations. This toy drive is not accepting clothing items at this time.
For more information on the drive, visit the governor and first lady’s websites.
Beshear urges Kentuckians to document everything they possibly can before cleaning up because the documentation will be important for applying for assistance. He also asked people to be careful and stay safe while trying to clean up their homes and neighborhood, especially around downed powerlines.
The areas hit are heavily damaged, with many services for internet, cell phones, etc. knocked out. The governor said the night the tornadoes hit, it took him eight hours to get in contact with a relative in the Dawson Springs area to make sure she was safe.
The governor also said 94 of the 110 employees from the Mayfield Candle Factory are alive and accounted for. Eight employees have been confirmed dead and eight more are still missing. Beshear also said the state is asking the factory employees to visit His House Ministries or call 888-880-8620 to verify they are safe and accounted for. Beshear says the number is only for the employees and asks that others do not call asking for updates.
The governor has directed flags on state office buildings to be lowered to half-staff for one week, beginning at sunrise Tuesday, Dec. 14 until Monday, Dec. 20 to honor the lives lost and those who were impacted by the tornado events.