Live updates: Rescue efforts are underway after deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest

Published December 13, 2021 at 8:03 AM EST

A massive storm caused dozens of tornadoes to rip through at least six states over the weekend. The unusual outbreak was created, in part, by unseasonably warm temperatures. With recovery efforts underway, the exact death toll will become clearer, but the full extent of the damage will take time to assess.

Follow the latest updates on the impact and rescue efforts below.
— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Rachel Treisman, Carol Ritchie, Nell Clark, Dana Farrington and Chris Hopkins)


Biden plans to visit Kentucky on Wednesday

Posted December 13, 2021 at 1:00 PM EST
President Biden walks outside wearing a navy coat and black face mask.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
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President Joe Biden walks on the South Lawn of the White House on Sunday in Washington, D.C.

President Biden says he will travel to Kentucky on Wednesday to see the aftermath of the deadly tornadoes that ripped across the state.

The White House said midday Monday that Biden will travel to Fort Campbell for a briefing, and to Mayfield and Dawson Springs to survey damage from the storm.

Biden had previously said that he would visit when his presence won't take away from emergency response efforts in the state, where at least 64 people are dead and more than 100 are missing as of Monday morning.

The president has also been in touch with governors from Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee, several of the states that were hit by tornadoes on Friday night and Saturday. He has expressed his condolences and urged them to seek federal assistance if needed.

Biden approved an emergency declaration for Kentucky on Saturday, and the following day declared a major disaster in the state. Those moves make federal funding and assistance available in the affected counties.

Biden also said he is about to approve a request from the governor of Illinois. He said he talked to his aides about how to accelerate and expand aid to people in Kentucky.

“I worry quite frankly about the mental health of these people,” Biden said. “What do you do? Where do you go?”

“We just want them to know we’re going to stay as long as it takes to help them,” he added.

Biden said it was one of the worst tornado disasters in the country, and called it unusual. But he declined to say definitively that it was connected to climate change — here's why the exact link between tornadoes and climate change is especially hard to draw.

Also on Biden's agenda this week: Mustering support for his Build Back Better agenda among members of his own party, including Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid has more here.


Kentucky declared a nurse shortage emergency a day before the deadly tornadoes hit

Posted December 13, 2021 at 12:09 PM EST
Two EMS vehicles sit outside, next to a bulldozer and pile of rubble.
John Amis/AFP via Getty Images
Emergency workers search what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared the state's shortage of nurses an emergency on Thursday, a day before it was hit by at least four massive tornadoes.

Beshear announced at a press briefing that Kentucky is operating 12-to-20% short of its needed nursing volume, and is projected to need more than 16,000 additional nurses by 2024. He signed an order declaring that shortage an emergency and implementing several steps aimed at addressing it.

"Even before the pandemic hit, nursing shortages were a problem; Now the commonwealth and the nation are experiencing a dire shortage," Beshear said. "This threatens not only the health of patients but the entire healthcare delivery system."

Hospitals across the country are trying to address intense burnout among health care workers, with the pandemic exacerbating a longstanding nursing shortage in the U.S. — even as it's become harder to get into nursing school, as NPR has reported.

The order aims to boost enrollment in nurse training programs in several ways, like allowing nursing schools to enroll more students, requiring schools to report vacant seats and faculty shortages to the state's board of nursing on a monthly basis and requiring schools at full capacity to refer qualified applicants to one that has openings.

A day after the announcement, a storm sent dozens of tornadoes across at least six states, including Kentucky. While the full extent of the damage has yet to be discovered, as of Monday 64 Kentuckians had died and more than 100 were unaccounted for.

NPR's Don Gonyea asked Beshear about the nursing shortage — and whether it is impacting hospitals' ability to help storm victims — on Weekend Edition Sunday. Here's what the governor said:

"Well, we are in a crisis on nursing, from both a pre-existing shortage to burnout during COVID. But these are the times that everybody rallies together. The local hospitals have had calls from all over Kentucky offering help. We've been able to move people who need a higher level of care to other places. You know, anybody who's suffering from injury, we are getting them help if we can get to them. You know, this occurred in the middle of the night. It did not — knocked down tree lines. It made getting to some people so difficult. So I am so grateful for everybody who was out in the middle of that storm doing everything they could to get to everybody they could reach."


With power grids down due to tornadoes, portable generators and heaters pose new risks

Posted December 13, 2021 at 11:49 AM EST

With the power grid all but wiped out by tornadoes in parts of Kentucky and several other states, many people in affected areas may be forced to turn on portable generators and propane heaters. But both of those devices carry inherent risks, as they produce carbon monoxide that can be deadly in enclosed spaces.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that on average about 170 people die annually in the U.S. from non-automotive products that produce carbon monoxide (CO) such as portable generators and non-electric heaters, as well as malfunctioning fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, ranges and water heaters.

“When power outages occur during natural disasters and other emergencies, the use of alternative sources of fuel or electricity for heating or cooking can cause CO to build up in a home, garage, or camper and to poison the people and animals inside,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns on its website.

In a 2017 report, the CPSC said that generators are “the single product associated with the most CO deaths under CPSC’s jurisdiction.” Next came heating devices, including propane and natural gas heating equipment, although “Staff notes that a number of the involved products, although not designed specifically as heating devices, were being used for, or were suspected as being used for, heating purposes, such as gas ranges, camp stoves, and charcoal grills,” it said.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can kill suddenly and without warning. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, stomach pain, chest pain and confusion.

To stay safe, the CDC advises:

  • Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet away from any windows, doors or vents.
  • When using a generator, use a battery-powered or battery backup CO detector
  • If conditions are too hot or too cold, seek shelter with friends or at a community shelter.
  • If CO poisoning is suspected, call 911 or your local Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or consult a health care professional immediately

For more information, check out this NPR story from last year detailing some of the concerns about carbon monoxide after natural disasters.


Kentucky candle factory was working round the clock to meet holiday demand

Posted December 13, 2021 at 11:37 AM EST
Emergency workers search through tons of wreckage.
John Amis/AFP via Getty Images
Emergency workers search through what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Ky.

Devastating tornados this weekend left a 200-mile path of destruction in six states. Within that path lay a Mayfield, Ky., candle factory where 110 people were working when a tornado struck, the company reports.

The factory collapsed completely from the damage and authorities originally feared dozens may have been killed, but it now appears as though many were spared.

The company says eight workers are dead and eight are still missing as search efforts at the site remain ongoing. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during a press conference Monday the state is working to confirm those numbers.

"There's at least 15 feet of metal with cars on top of it, barrels of corrosive chemicals that are there. It will be a miracle if anybody else is found alive in it," Beshear told reporters over the weekend.

Graves County Jail reports it had seven inmates and a deputy working at the candle factory when the tornado struck. The inmates survived but Deputy Robert Danie was killed, the institution shared on Facebook.

The factory made candles, wax and home fragrance products under the nameMayfield Consumer Products, which describes itself as family-owned. The factory is one of the area's largest employers.

Workers at the factory had reportedly been working around the clock to meet demand for the holiday season when warnings of dangerous weather began to come in.

Day-shift supervisor Linetta Burney told the Washington Post that employees responded to the emergency weather sirens by moving to a designated shelter-in-place location within the factory.

“They [management] don’t make nobody stay against their will,” said Burney. “When the tornado sirens go off, we move to the back hallways and line people up in a safe spot.”

Troy Propes, CEO of Mayfield Consumer Products, told Fox Newsthatemployees followed protocol.

"Everyone was aware of bad weather, but, as we’re all taught even as children, the first thing we do is don’t get in your car. The management team that was at the factory that night, I praise them for doing an excellent job," Propes said.

NPR's Brian Mann is in Western Kentucky andreports the factory had numerous alleged safety violations in the past. Officials have not explained why the factory's tornado shelter didn't protect many of the workers, Mann says.

Member station WPLN's Blake Farmer spoke to local resident Axel Diaz, who used to work at the factory.

"We - I probably lost one of my friends over there. It's sad. I mean, it's something that happened in less than two minutes," Diaz said. "All this, all you can see around was in a minute and a half."

Farmer reports FEMA is on the scene, scouring through the damage in search of survivors.

Six people are reportedly dead at an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Ill., after a tornado struck there as well Friday.


Kentucky's governor says the state's death toll is currently at 64

Posted December 13, 2021 at 11:22 AM EST
Three people carry a fallen tree on the dirt ground in front of a damaged white building.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
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Cleanup begins after a tornado ripped through the area two in Mayfield, Ky.

Gov. Andy Beshear held a press briefing on Monday morning — the third day of response to what he called the worst tornado event in Kentucky's history — to put a finer point on the damage it wrought, even as he cautioned that the numbers are very much subject to change.

He confirmed that the state was hit by at least four tornadoes, including one that stayed on the ground for at least 200 miles. Some 18 counties were affected, with deaths in at least eight. Beshear said that thousands of homes are damaged, and it may take weeks to confirm a final count on the levels of destruction and number of deaths.

Beshear said there have been at least 64 deaths in the state, with all but 18 victims identified. They range in age from five months to 86 years, and six are minors, he added, visibly choking up.

"Undoubtedly there will be more," he said. "We believe it'll certainly be above 70 maybe even 80, but again with this amount of damage and rubble it may be a week or even more before we have a final count on the number of lost lives."

Responders are still working to find 105 Kentuckians that are unaccounted for, Beshear added.

Twenty of the confirmed deaths were in Graves County, which is home to the city of Mayfield and the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory.

Beshear offered a bit of "potential good news" from the factory, where 110 individuals were working a night shift at the time of the storm. According to the business, 94 employees are alive and accounted for — a much higher number than officials initially feared. Eight are dead and eight are missing, though Beshear said the state is working to confirm these numbers.

He added that with no working phones, and backhoes sorting through more than 15 feet of wreckage, it's not yet possible to confirm how many individuals made it out.

Beshear thanked the federal government and good Samaritans for their quick response to the tragedy.

The White House issued a federal declaration of a major emergency on Sunday, which Beshear called good news for families as they will get help documenting their losses and filing claims.

"I believe this is the most rapid response by the federal government in the history of the United States of America," Beshear said. "And we need it, and we are really grateful for it."

Statewide, Beshear said that more than 300 National Guard personnel are assisting with rescue and recovery efforts, and hundreds of state employees are clearing roads and even starting to haul debris in some places.

People across the country have been pitching in too, Beshear noted. He said the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund has received more than 31,000 donations totaling more than $4 million so far. He pledged transparency and said all of it will go to help families, with no administrative fees taken out of the fund.

The first expenditures from the fund will cover burial expenses for those lost. Beshear said each family that has lost a loved one will get $5,000 without having to apply, and that the state will ask funeral homes not to charge families beyond that amount.

He is also ordering flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff for one week starting Tuesday morning to honor those who were killed and/or severely impacted by the weekend's storms. He is asking businesses and other states to follow suit.

In terms of recovery efforts, Beshear stressed that debris removal will take a significant amount of time. He said there is "just a mountain of waste" and noted that many livestock were killed by the storm, too.

Just under 30,000 homes are without power as of Monday morning. Cell service has been restored in some counties and is in progress in others.

Michael Dossett, the director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, also praised the federal government for its quick response but stressed recovery would not happen overnight.

He said that some 29 transmission lines are out, at least 97 power structures are damaged, thousands of neighborhood power poles are down and several local power companies have reported damage to their distribution systems. The water system was also impacted, he said: Three systems with more than 10,000 customers are not operational, and 11 systems serving some 17,000 customers have limited operational capabilities.

Kentucky has opened its state parks for housing for impacted families, and Beshear says they will guarantee at least two weeks of stay, with other options potentially available at that point. There are still openings at Kenlake Stake Park and Kentucky Dam Village State Park, which are also seeking volunteers to help wash dishes and clothes.

Beshear, who was visibly emotional during the briefing, said this is a difficult time for many and promised to be there for the people of Western Kentucky as they rebuild.

"I was working on getting the confirmed deaths this morning and realized I was writing on the back of notes that one of my kids took from school," he said at one point. And here it was it is: It's notes on inertia. It means that an object that is in motion will stay in motion. So we are going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and push through this."


Churches provide shelter and hope for a devastated Kentucky community

Posted December 13, 2021 at 10:40 AM EST

Reporter Liam Niemeyer of NPR member station WKMS has this dispatch from Western Kentucky:

Follow @wkms, which covers Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois and Northwest Tennessee for more reports like this from the ground.


Scientists still have many questions about the link between tornadoes and climate change

Posted December 13, 2021 at 10:27 AM EST
Two people stand in front of a massive pile of rubble, including a dented silver SUV.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images
Tornado damage is seen after extreme weather hit the region over the weekend in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Dozens of tornadoes — including one massive storm that tore through more than 200 miles — struck Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi on Friday and Saturday, killing at least 14 people in four states and potentially dozens more in Kentucky alone.

People following the devastating news out of the region may be wondering: (How) was the storm related to climate change?

After all, most of the extreme weather events that have dominated headlines recently — from wildfires in the U.S. to historic flooding in Western Europe — have had a clear connection to high temperatures, record rainfall and other effects of a warming planet.

The same can't exactly be said for tornadoes, however.

Scientists know that warm weather is a key ingredient in tornadoes, and that climate change is altering the environment in which these kinds of storms form. But they can't directly connect those dots, as the research into the link between climate and tornadoes still lags behind that of other extreme weather events like hurricanes and wildfire.

That's at least in part due to a lack of data — even though the U.S. leads the world in tornadoes, averaging about 1,200 a year.

Less than 10% of severe thunderstorms produce tornadoes, which makes it tricky to draw firm conclusions about the processes leading up to them and how they might be influenced by climate change, Harold Brooks, a tornado scientist at the National Severe Storms Laboratory, told PBS NewsHour.

Other factors that make that climate change attribution difficult include the quality of the observational record and the ability of models to simulate certain weather events. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that's the case with tornadoes.

"The observational record is not consistent and relatively short, the models remain inconclusive as to replicating tornado activity, and our understanding of how global warming and climate change will influence the different atmospheric processes that produce tornadoes (wind shear, for example) is more limited," reads a page on its website.

While scientists may not be able to conclusively connect tornado frequency or intensity to human-caused climate change, they say there are signs pointing in that direction.

Here's what they do know:

What tornadoes are and when they occur

NOAA defines tornadoes as narrow, violently rotating columns of air that extend from a thunderstorm to the ground (while the wind part is invisible, tornadoes can form condensation funnels of water droplets, dust and debris). They can be among the most violent of natural disasters, ripping homes apart, tearing through infrastructure and sending debris flying.

Tornadoes can occur in any part of the U.S. at any time of year.

They have historically been associated with the Great Plains, though experts say the idea of a so-called "Tornado Alley" can be misleading since the tornado threat is a bit of a moving target. It shifts from the Southeast in the cooler months of the year, toward the southern and central Plains in May and June, and the northern Plains and Midwest during early summer.

When people talk about "tornado season," they are usually referring to the time of year when the U.S. sees the most tornadoes — which peaks in May and June in the southern Plains and later in the northern Plains and upper Midwest. This weekend's tornadoes were well outside of typical tornado season, but experts say that in itself isn't rare.

What kind of conditions caused this weekend's storm

Meteorologists are pointing to two contributing factors: warm temperatures and strong winds.

Thunderstorms happen when denser, drier cold air is pushed over warmer, humid air, as PBS NewsHour explains, and an updraft is created when the warm air rises. Changes in the wind's speed and/or direction (known as "wind shear") can cause the updraft to spin, laying the groundwork for a tornado.

There's not usually a lot of wind instability in the winter because the air is typically not that warm or humid — but that wasn't the case over the weekend.

States across the Midwest and South were experiencing spring-like temperatures on Friday. Memphis, Tenn., saw a record high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, for example.

"The atmosphere didn't know it was December - temperatures in the 70s and 80s," tweeted Mississippi-based meteorologist Craig Ceecee.

That could be a product of many things, from the La Niña climate pattern bringing warmer-than-average conditions to the southern U.S. to the above-average water temperatures of the Gulf of Mexico to the warm winter weather that is increasingly common as the planet heats up.

In any case, those high temperatures lent themselves to the warm, moist air that helped form thunderstorms. And once the storm formed, experts believe a strong wind shear (which is typical in the winter) prolonged the duration of its tornadoes.

Victor Gensini, a meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University, told NewsHour that while tornadoes typically lose energy within minutes, this weekend's tornadoes lasted for hours.

The U.S. will likely see more tornadoes beyond their typical time and place

Experts say climate change is impacting the conditions in which tornadoes form, and could lead to changes in when and where the U.S. sees them.

John T. Allen, a professor of meteorology at Central Michigan University, wrote in a USA Today op-ed that while ties to climate change are still uncertain, there appears to have been an "eastward shift in tornado frequency" and increasing frequency of tornadoes in outbreaks over the last few decades.

"Climate projections for the late 21st century have suggested that the conditions favorable to the development of the severe storms that produce tornadoes will increase over North America, and the impact could be greatest in the winter and fall," he added.

Brooks, of the National Severe Storms Laboratory, said the U.S. is likely to see more tornadoes in the winter (and fewer in the summer) as national temperatures rise above the long-term average.

And Gensini told Axios that projections show an increase in major outbreaks in the mid-South and Southeast. He also compared tornado-climate change attribution to the steroids era of baseball, as Axios put it: "Pinning an individual home run on steroid use is difficult, he said, but in the aggregate the trends are evident."


How to talk to kids about tornadoes

Posted December 13, 2021 at 10:06 AM EST

The violence associated with tornadoes can be particularly difficult for children to process. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a guide for helping families before, during and after a tornado.

To start, the network notes, "Being prepared beforehand is the best way to help children and family members recover after a tornado." That includes having an emergency supply kit, a plan to shelter in place, and a strategy for how members should communicate in the event of storm. Plus, parents and caregivers may want to have some factual information to share with children about how tornadoes work and what to expect.

During a tornado, parents and caregivers can:

  • Model calm behavior.
  • Provide simple but accurate information in a quiet, steady voice.
  • Encourage comforting or distracting activities.
  • Practice their own self-care.

After the fact, modeling how to handle such a stressful situation remains key. Plus:

  • Provide accurate information to children about what happened during the storm as well as what changes the family is facing. Answer questions honestly but with the amount of detail appropriate to their developmental level.
  • Keep family routines as regular as possible, even in the early recovery phase.
  • Monitor the media and social media information children are viewing and set limits if children are overly focused on viewing this content.
  • Seek additional help for themselves or their children if behavioral changes or reactions worsen or if they persist over six weeks after the hurricane.

See the full guide for talking to kids about tornadoes and other natural disasters here.

Of course, anyone can feel distressed by such a storm. FEMA is sharing how you can contact a counselor 24/7.

Rescue efforts

The tornado death toll in Kentucky might be lower than first feared

Posted December 13, 2021 at 7:57 AM EST

The loss of life from tornadoes that swept across six states are clearly devastating, but the figures might not be as high as first thought.

In Kentucky, the state hardest hit by Friday night’s storms that leveled whole towns, Gov. Andy Beshear told NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday that the state’s death toll “is already above 80, likely over 100.”

But by Sunday evening, Beshear told a news conference that “best-case scenario," was there were 50 deaths, adding that he was “not optimistic for the best-case scenario.”

The discrepancy likely comes from the revised toll at a Kentucky candle factory, where officials initially said only 40 of 110 workers had been rescued from the collapsed building.

A spokesman for the company that runs the factory, Mayfield Consumer Products, now says more than 90 people have been located since initial reports, and that eight are confirmed dead, and another eight still missing.

"There were some early reports that as many as 70 could be dead in the factory,” the spokesman, Bob Ferguson, told Reuters. “One is too many, but we thank God that the number is turning out to be far, far fewer.”

At Sunday’s news conference, Beshear acknowledged that the outcome at the candle factory “may be a better situation and the miracle we were hoping for.”

At least 14 people have been reported killed in four other states — Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.

But the largest damage by far was seen in Kentucky. In Muhlenberg County, the town of Bremen, population 300, had 12 deaths, Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Colemantold Morning Edition. In Ohio County, 50 homes were "essentially destroyed," she said.

“I don’t know that anything could have stood up to the power of this storm,” Coleman said. “One tornado was on the ground for 200 straight miles, which has never happened before.”

She said assistance has been pouring in from across the state and country to a relief fund set up by the government, NPR member station WFPL in Kentucky also has a list of ways to help victims.

“The hope and the unity that we are seeing is special," Coleman said. "It makes me believe in Kentucky and what we stand for and that we’re going to rebuild and recover and that we’re going to get through this.”


How to help those affected by the weekend tornados

Posted December 13, 2021 at 7:56 AM EST

Many people are asking how they can help after several devastating tornadoes swept across Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi over the weekend.

Jasmine Demers from NPR member station WFPL compiled a list of how to help victims in Kentucky, where much of the worst damage was felt.

You can read the full list of resources here.

Chef José Andrés' nonprofit World Central Kitchen is on the ground in the affected areas providing fresh meals and water to victims and volunteers. You can support their work here.

Continue below for some ways to aid in the recovery including where to donate money and drop off essential supplies locally, and which animal shelters are in critical need of foster parents and funds.

Donate to disaster relief funds

Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund

Verified GoFundMe pages created by community members and organizations in need

His House Ministries (Mayfield, Ky)

Kentucky Red Cross:

  • Donate onlinehere
  • Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.
  • To donate by phone via credit card or to ask questions about donating money to the Red Cross, please call 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-435-7669)


***Advisory: Please avoid obstructing search and rescue efforts by calling/checking-in beforehand***

Kentucky Emergency Management – Fill out the volunteer/donate link here

Kentucky Red Cross

Lone Oak Baptist Church, 3601 Lone Oak Rd, Paducah, KY 42003

Mercy Chefs – Mayfield, KY Tornado Response (shifts available throughout the week)

Donate blood

Kentucky Red Cross: Find your local blood bank here

Kentucky Blood Center: Find a drive here

Support pets/stray animals in need

The Humane Society Animal Rescue & Response Team

Kentucky Humane Society

Foster a pet or donate supplies! The following shelters are in critical need due to the tornadoes:


What we know so far about the deadly tornadoes in the South and Midwest

Posted December 13, 2021 at 7:55 AM EST
An aerial view shows destroyed properties on both sides of a street, with several cars and trucks parked in between.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Getty Images North America
Salvage and cleanup continues after a tornado ripped through the area two days prior in Mayfield, Kentucky.

Emergency response efforts are underway after a historic storm brought scores of tornadoes to the South and Midwest over the weekend.

Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Mississippi were struck by dozens of tornadoes — including one massive storm that tore through more than 200 miles — Friday evening and Saturday morning.

The vast majority of fatalities were in Kentucky, where estimates of the possible loss of life are in the dozens. But the full of the damage may not be known for days as weather experts say it will take time to survey the storm while search and rescue operations continue.

NPR and member stations across the region are following the latest developments. Here's what we know as of Monday morning:

Kentucky was hit hardest

Gov. Andy Beshear offered varying death tolls on Sunday, ranging from what he described as a "best-case scenario" of 50 deaths to more than 100. He said on Sunday evening that more than 1,000 homes were destroyed and thousands of people have been left homeless.

"I don't think we'll have seen damage at this scale ever," he said.

Beshear spoke to NPR on Sunday about the conditions he's seeing on the ground and how recovery efforts are going.

Mayfield, Ky., is among the cities facing severe destruction. It's home to a now-demolished candle factory, where about 110 people were reportedly working night shifts when a tornado hit and the building collapsed. A spokesperson for the factory, Mayfield Consumer Products, said on Sunday that there were eight confirmed deaths and eight people unaccounted for, though Beshear said the state had yet to verify those numbers.

"I was there yesterday, and it's even worse than the images," Beshear told NPR, referring to the candle factory, "It's 15 plus feet of steel, of cars that were in the parking lot that went through the roof of drums of corrosive chemicals."

More than 28,600 Kentucky customers are still without power as of Monday morning, according to an online tracker.

President Biden approved Kentucky's request for emergency federal assistance Sunday and said he will visit the state when his presence won't take away from emergency response efforts. He also urged other governors to seek federal aid if needed.

Hear more from NPR's Brian Mann, who is on the ground in Dawson Springs, Ky.

Multiple fatalities have been confirmed in other states

At least 14 people were killed in Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.

Six people have been reported dead in Edwardsville, Ill., after a tornado caused an Amazon warehouse to collapse with people trapped inside. Some 45 workers were able to escape the wreckage.

Two deaths have also been reported in northeast Arkansas, including one manwholivedin a nursing home. Four people have died in northwest Tennessee, and two in Missouri, including a child and an 84-year-old woman.

Read the latest here. Plus: