The deadliest tornado event in Kentucky’s history tore through Kentucky Friday night. Four tornadoes touched down on Friday. One of them stayed on the ground for 227 miles, with 200 of those miles in Kentucky.
Guardsmen Activated After Deadly Tornado
While Kentucky is known for tornado events, most tornados happen in the spring not late fall. And this event is the deadliest. At least 70 people have died, but the state’s death toll could increase to more than 100. As of Tuesday, December 14, nearly 500 Air and Army Kentucky National Guardsmen have been activated to support the tornado relief effort in various locations including hard hit Mayfield and Dawson Springs.
On Sunday, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said in a press briefing that of the 300 plus members activated at the time, 81 were connected to law enforcement, 80 in recovery support, and 44 in debris clearance, Kirby also stated he did not expect activation from other states to help with the response.
The Guard has brought so many special capabilities and resources such as: Special Tactics pararescue, Critical Care Air Transport Teams, a Facility Search and Recovery Team, and a Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and High Yield Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package (CBRNEFP).
“The National Guard is here to support in any way that we can, and we have worked alongside multiple fire departments and police departments,” said Spc. Jonah Crockett, from the 301st Chemical Battalion.
Crockett is part of the Guard’s CERFP. The role of CERFP is to provide a full spectrum of disaster response and to assist in recovery operations. Tasks range from medical evaluations to explosive ordinance disposal.
The Guard is also helping every way they can. “The National Guard has brought dogs and rescue teams,” said Tiffany Necome with Salem Fire Department. “Several Guard members are downtown as well, cutting down trees and clearing road, just doing what needs to be done.”
Missing People, Destruction, and Outages
Members are going door to door looking for people. The destruction has made it difficult to reach everyone. The high death toll is mainly due to a candle factory in Mayfield with 110 workers collapsing. Rescue workers were able to save 40 people, but many others were crushed by the building and rubble or cars that had blown on top of the flattened building.
Another aspect of helping with the clean up is organizing and keeping everyone safe. The MPs have helped secure roads and have helped people come in and out. Ensuring authorized personnel can continue the mission of search and rescue.
The National Guard and first responders continue the search and rescue operation during the daylight to help find missing people.
Efforts to restore power are still continuing. Thousands of power outages have taken place across the region. About 77,000 customers in Kentucky and 53,000 customers in Tennessee were without power as of Saturday evening. And while more counties have been able to have power restored, Graves County continues to have a widespread outage as rescue workers work to clear debris and downed powerlines.
As the rescue efforts proceed, the National Guard play a key role supporting people with the aftermath and restoring order to the area.