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Beshear: More than 50 deaths likely from western Ky. tornado outbreak

Gov. Andy Beshear displaying the track of a tornado which stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles.
Gov. Andy Beshear displaying the track of a tornado which stayed on the ground for more than 200 miles.

Calling it the most severe tornado event in Kentucky’s history, Gov. Andy Beshear in a press conference early Saturday morning said more than 50 deaths will likely come from a catastrophic tornado outbreak overnight across western Kentucky.

“Multiple tornadoes have touched down, and we have damage in I believe over a dozen Kentucky counties,” Beshear said. “The primary tornado was on the ground continuously for over 200 miles in our state, something we have never seen before.”

As of 4 a.m. CST, Beshear said at least 19 counties would likely have damage and debris from the outbreak: Fulton, Hickman, Graves, Marshall, Lyon, Caldwell, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Breckenridge, Bullitt, Spencer, Shelby, Christian, Logan, Warren, Edmondson, Taylor, and Marion counties.

Graves County appeared to be the hardest hit from the outbreak, Beshear said, with the city of Mayfield being “devastated.”

Beshear said a historic tornado stayed on the ground for about 227 miles, beginning in southeastern Missouri, moving directly over Mayfield and stretching across the Pennyrile region to Breckinridge county.

The governor specifically mentioned the collapse of Mayfield Consumer Products, a local candle factory that had about 110 people inside when the tornado hit the city. Beshear said he expects dozens of casualties from the factory collapse.

“It's very hard. Really tough. And we're praying for each and every one of those families,” Beshear said.

Beshear said the Kentucky National Guard and trucks with water were heading to Mayfield this morning. Social media posts of photos of downtown Mayfield show the county courthouse severely damaged.

More than 56,000 Kentuckians are without power this morning as of 4:45 a.m. CST, Beshear said, with the number significantly rising. The governor declared a state of emergency overnight due to the tornado outbreak.

More coverage on the aftermath from the tornado outbreak will be published throughout the weekend.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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