Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday President Joe Biden’s swift approval of the federal disaster declaration he requested “shows how bad” the situation is following Friday night’s devastating tornadoes.
“For those who do this kind of work, that rarely happens in the midst of a disaster,” the governor said at his afternoon storm briefing.
The declaration opens up significantly more resources, “such as almost immediate reimbursement for a lot of things we’re doing which is going to help our cities and counties do even more.”
Beshear called the destruction “unlike anything I have seen in my life, and I have trouble putting into words.”
“When it was safe to travel this morning, I flew to Mayfield. My first stop was that candle factory, where 110 people were working at the time the storm hit.
“They rescued 40. There’s at least 15 feet of metal, with cars, barrels of corrosive chemicals that are there … it will be a miracle if anybody else is found alive in it,” he said.
He reminded people who are not helping with the relief effort to stay away.
“Let our first responders get to everybody. Don’t go to these areas to see it. We need to make sure those who do this work can do it at the fastest possible speed,” he said.
The governor also announced a single fund has been established for people who want to help. It is called the The Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, and can be accessed at: TeamWKYReliefFund.ky.gov.
Elected officials at all levels were quick to offer their assistance Saturday to those impacted by the devastating tornado that ripped through Kentucky Friday night.
“First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with our city employees, friends, and neighbors who live in Mayfield, Cayce, Marshall County, and other communities that were devastated by last night’s tornado,” said Paducah Mayor George Bray.
“In watching the news, a local meteorologist last night said that this was a ‘life-changing’ tornado. Those words are so true. I have just returned from Mayfield where I observed first-hand the devastation. Lives have been lost, families are hurting, and we all are struggling to make sense out of this storm. “
Bray said City Manager Daron Jordan is leading the Paducah's efforts to provide assistance and the city’s police and fire departments are also helping Mayfield with its emergency response.
Paducah is also providing 911 dispatching for Mayfield until their system is back up.
"I have spoken with Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan and offered Paducah’s ongoing support and assistance as they work through the devastating losses,” the mayor said.
“Today, we are all in shock, but we recognize that this will be a long-term response and recovery effort that must be highly coordinated. Paducah is here to help all of our neighbors in any way that we can.”
Kentucky’s entire federal delegation released a letter to Biden around noon Saturday, urging his support for Beshear’s request for the disaster request for the commonwealth.
Early Saturday, U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul issued statements.
“I am praying for the lives lost and communities impacted by the tornado devastation throughout the Commonwealth. Thank you to the first responders and the National Guard for their brave efforts amid this tragedy,” McConnell said.
“Our hearts are broken for all those suffering from last night’s horrid storms. As daylight comes and we begin to fully understand the severity of the devastation, we mourn and we pray,” Paul said.
State legislative leaders also issues statements.
“We are heartbroken to awaken this morning to the devastation caused by the violent weather that tore its way across the commonwealth last night, claiming lives and most significantly impacting parts of western Kentucky,” said Senate President Robert Stivers.
“We extend our heartfelt appreciation to first responders for providing immediate aid to their communities amid this unimaginable destruction and stand ready to assist in the recovery.”
House Speaker David Osborne offered: “We have spoken with members in areas impacted by last night’s tornado and are heartbroken by what we are hearing. Many, like Rep Richard Heath of Mayfield, were out all night taking part in recovery efforts and are still working now to help their neighbors and constituents.
“The loss of human life, the injuries, and the absolute destruction of homes, businesses, churches, and public buildings is devastating. Our prayers are with the people impacted by these storms and the men and women responding to the rescue and recovery efforts.”