Tornadoes crush western, central Kentucky leaving death, destruction in wake; Beshear requests aid from Biden

Published 12:24 am Sunday, December 12, 2021

Click here to download and read Gov. Beshear’s letter to President Biden  about disaster relief for Kentucky.

Massive tornadoes swept across western and central Kentucky overnight and continued south into the early morning hours Saturday, causing severe damage and loss of life.

Gov. Andy Beshear said in an early morning address that the death toll would reach at least 50 and could climb even higher.

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It will likely go down as “the most significant tornado event in Kentucky’s history,” the governor said. More than 56,000 people were without power in Kentucky at 2 a.m. Four likely tornadoes impacted counties across the state and one massive storm devastated southwestern Tennessee and the western half of Kentucky.

“Remember, each of these lives are children of God, irreplaceable to their families and their communities,” Beshear said. “We will make it through this. We will rebuild. We are strong, resilient people.”

In the community of Mayfield, multiple buildings collapsed in the severe weather including First Baptist Church Mayfield. Several people were trapped inside a damaged candle factory in Mayfield and that a shift was ongoing when the storm hit. A dozen have been reported dead from that incident.

Beshear declared a state of emergency early Saturday for what he said was major tornado damage in several western counties. Beshear said 180 National Guard troops has been summoned to respond to the region.

“We have had multiple tornadoes touch down in dozens of Kentucky counties,” he said.

Dr. Todd Gray, executive director-treasurer of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was driving home from west Kentucky Friday night after speaking an associational Christmas party in Princeton.

“I saw emergency vehicles in Muhlenberg County and was listening to reports out of Mayfield and Benton,” he said. “I was in touch with several Kentucky Baptist pastors who described great damage to property but appreciation for personal protection. I was also in touch with

KBC Disaster Relief Director Ron Crow, who was monitoring the situation and traveling to west Kentucky today.”

Gray said it will be a time of pulling together as Kentucky Baptists always do so well.

“Kentucky was hard hit,” he said. “We do not know the full extent of the damage. But we do know that God will help us and Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief, as well as other state conventions, will put together plans today and in the weeks ahead to serve our neighbors in the name of Jesus. Please pray for those impacted in our state.”

Early Saturday morning on Facebook, FBC Mayfield Pastor Wes Fowler posted a message for the church family.

“We sometimes need to be reminded that the facility where we worship is not the church – *we* are the church, the body of Christ. We always teach this truth, but now we’ll have to live it.”

Fowler posted that the campus was severely damage. “Basically, every part of our campus will need to be restored/repaired. But we’ll be ok.

In fact, we’ll be better than ok. The Lord will use this storm for our benefit, not our detriment. I honestly don’t know how just yet, but I trust He will.”

Fowler asked the church to pray for first responders and the injured. “Pray for the Lord to be glorified – even through something so difficult.”

The tornado was thought to have started in Arkansas and rolled through Mayfield as it entered Kentucky and then swept through Eddyville, Princeton and Dawson Springs, said WKYT meteorologist Chris Bailey. The twister was on the ground for more than 200 miles, he said.

Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, expressed concern for those affected by the storms. “Please join me in praying for those impacted and the many SBC DR volunteers who will be responding,” he posted on Twitter.

Mike Ebert, executive director of public relations for NAMB, says the entity is sending assistance grants to Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. “We have a Send Relief Ministry Center in Ashland, Kentucky that is prepared to send relief materials as needed,” he said.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a statement.

                                                  U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell

“I am praying for the lives lost and communities impacted by the tornado devastation throughout the commonwealth,” he said. “Thank you to the first responders and the National Guard for their brave efforts amid this tragedy. As I continue to get reports from my staff, local and state officials, we will work with the entire Kentucky federal delegation to support Governor Andy Beshear’s request for federal assistance in order to aid these hard-hit communities with the funding and resources they need to rebuild.”