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More than 70 dead in Kentucky after tornadoes hit central U.S.; 6 dead at Amazon warehouse in Illinois

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Deadly tornadoes devastate Midwest, Kentucky
Deadly tornadoes rip through Midwest, leaving historic levels of damage 03:18

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The death toll from tornadoes and severe storms that hit several states Friday and early Saturday was at least 70, with Kentucky the hardest hit. 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said earlier Saturday the death toll "could end up exceeding 100 before the day is done."

A candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, collapsed with 110 people inside. Only 40 people had been rescued from the rubble as of Saturday afternoon, the governor said. 

US-CLIMATE-WEATHER
A woman walks away from a row of ambulances on the property of Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. JOHN AMIS/AFP via Getty Images

"We hope there are still rescues to be made," Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart O'Nan told CBS News' Lana Zak on Saturday. "We fear that it is now just recovery." 

Deaths were reported in other states as well: 

  • In Tennessee, at least four people were killed when a string of suspected tornadoes barreled through parts of the state. 
  • Sixty miles north of Memphis, a tornado hit a nursing home in Monette, Arkansas, killing one person. One other person died in the state.
  • Six people are also dead in Edwardsville, Illinois, where the roof of an Amazon warehouse collapsed during a storm. The storm pummeled the building until a wall the length of a football field caved in, reports Jenna Rae from CBS-affiliated St. Louis station KMOV. Forty-five people have been rescued from the rubble. It is not clear how many remain missing.

Tornado watches and warnings were posted in nine states from Texas to the Great Lakes, and power is out in many places.

President Biden signed an emergency declaration for Kentucky, allowing FEMA and other federal agencies to coordinate disaster relief efforts in the state. "Whatever is needed, the federal government is going to find a way to supply it," Mr. Biden said Saturday at a press conference.

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Bowling Green, Kentucky, residents look at the damage following a tornado that struck the area on December 11, 2021. GUNNAR WORD/AFP via Getty Images
 

Analyzing the deadly tornadoes that ripped through the U.S.

Analyzing the historic tornadoes that ravaged the Midwest 01:40
 

Tennessee governor in the process of declaring state of emergency

Tennessee Governer Bill Lee said on Saturday that he is "in the process" of declaring a state of emergency. Lee also said that he had spoken with President Biden about what that would entail. Tennessee suffered multiple millions of dollars of damage, according to the governor.

Tennessee Emergency Management Agency chief Alex Pellom said 63,000 people in Tennessee were without power as of Saturday night.

By Jordan Freiman
 

At least 6 people killed after storm topples Amazon warehouse in Illinois

Illinois Governor Pritzker confirmed six people died when an Amazon warehouse collapsed during Friday night's powerful storms. Forty-five people have been rescued from the facility in Edwardsville, and one was airlifted to a hospital.

"This is a difficult end to a difficult year," Pritzker said during a Saturday evening press conference.

Edwardsville Fire Chief James Whiteford said that the rescue effort has turned to a recovery effort, which will take about three more days to complete. 

Officials have not yet determined how many people are missing because Amazon does not know how many people were in the warehouse at the time of the incident, the fire chief said.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said in a statement Saturday night that, "We're heartbroken over the loss of our teammates there, and our thoughts and prayers are with their families and loved ones."

"All of Edwardsville should know that the Amazon team is committed to supporting them and will be by their side through this crisis," Bezos added. "We extend our fullest gratitude to all the incredible first responders who have worked so tirelessly at the site."

At least 6 killed after Amazon warehouse in Illinois collapses during powerful storms 23:48
By Sophie Reardon
 

Biden says federal government will "provide whatever is needed" to impacted communities

Biden pledges federal aid after tornadoes devastate central U.S. 10:58
By Sophie Reardon
 

UPS and FedEx shipments could be affected by severe storms, company says

UPS and FedEx said Friday's severe weather could affect scheduled delivery times for certain packages. 

UPS said the weather "caused a disruption in operations" at its main U.S. hub in Louisville, Kentucky. And FedEx said the severe conditions affected FedEx Express operations at its hub in Memphis, Tennessee. 

"As a result, scheduled delivery times for a limited number of Air and international packages may be affected," UPS said in a service alert. "Contingency plans are in place to help ensure that shipments arrive at their final destinations as quickly as conditions permit."

FedEx too said it has contingency plans in place to account for the weather's impacts. 

"We appreciate our customers' patience and understanding as we work to provide the best service possible while keeping our team members safe during this time," FedEx said in a statement. 

By Tori B. Powell
 

Biden pledges federal help: "We're going to get through this"

President Joe Biden said his administration will "provide whatever is needed" for cities hit by severe weather and deadly tornadoes Friday night. 

"Whatever is needed, the federal government is going to find a way to supply it," Mr. Biden said Saturday at a press conference. 

The president said he plans to visit affected areas and has communicated with some governors of impacted states. He said the relief efforts will be prioritized "until we get this finished."

"I want folks in all these states to know we're going to get through this," Mr. Biden said. "We're going to get through this together, and the federal government is not going to walk away." 

By Tori B. Powell
 

How to help victims in Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Beshear outlined three ways people can help the victims of Friday night's deadly storms.

  1. If you live in the area and are safe, stay off of the roads so that first responders can reach all of the affected areas. Do not go out to look at the damage.

  2. Give blood. The state was already low on donations due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now it is in desperate need of blood to care for the injured.

  3. Donate money. The state has set up a relief fund "solely dedicated to the on-the-ground efforts going on right now, and the relief efforts that these families are going to need to rebuild," the governor said. The website address is: teamwkyrelieffund.ky.gov.

Authorities added that the local Red Cross is busy helping people who are in need of immediate shelter. They ask that people who want to donate do not come to their shelters and do not call their phone number, as it is for people in need of shelter. If you want to donate to the organization, you can visit www.redcross.org.

By Sophie Reardon
 

Amazon "deeply saddened" by deaths at Illinois warehouse due to storms

A spokesperson for Amazon said the company is "deeply saddened" after powerful storms caused the partial collapse of one of its warehouses in Illinois, killing two people Friday night.

"We're deeply saddened by the news that members of our Amazon family passed away as a result of the storm in Edwardsville, IL," Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted by the storm. We also want to thank all the first responders for their ongoing efforts on the scene. We're continuing to provide support to our employees and partners in the area."

The Edwardsville Police Department wrote on Facebook that a "significant portion of the Amazon warehouse" saw "catastrophic damage." It also said Saturday morning that search and recovery efforts were ongoing.

By Tori B. Powell
 

Biden approves emergency declaration in Kentucky

President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration requested Saturday morning by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. The president's approval authorizes federal agencies to coordinate all disaster relief efforts in the state. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will step in to "alleviate the impacts of the emergency," and direct federal funding will be provided.

The federal emergency declaration covers Breckenridge, Bullitt, Caldwell, Fulton, Graves, Grayson, Hickman, Hopkins, Lyons, Meade, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Shelby, Spencer and Warren counties. 

By Tori B. Powell
 

Mayfield candle factory "looks as if a bomb has dropped on it," mayor says

The mayor of Mayfield, Kentucky, said a candle factory in her city where dozens of people were trapped amid severe weather "looks as if a bomb has dropped on it."

"We hope there are still rescues to be made," Kathy Stewart O'Nan told CBS News' Lana Zak on Saturday. "We fear that it is now just recovery."

There were 110 workers in the factory -- Mayfield Consumer Products -- when a tornado hit. She said the building has "completely collapsed," and officials said about 40 people have been rescued.

"We are very proud of this candle factory because it was begun by a local family, and it has just grown to a very large part of our community," she said.

O'Nan said it had been very busy because of the holiday season.

The governor said earlier that at least 70 people are dead in the state.

Pictures showed the factory in shreds and response workers digging through heaps of rubble. 

Severe Weather Kentucky
Emergency response workers dig through the rubble of the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky on December 11, 2021. Timothy D. Easley/AP
By Tori B. Powell
 

Student editor in Kentucky details damage: "It's hard to come to terms with it"

The editor-in-chief of Western Kentucky University's newspaper said his community in Bowling Green is shocked at the storm damage.

"Never could I have even begun to picture something like this," Michael Collins, editor-in-chief of the College Heights Herald, told CBS News' Lana Zak. "The tornado that touched down here touched down almost in the middle of town, the worst possible place it could touch down."

Student editor in Kentucky details damage from tornado outbreak 06:17

He detailed massive trees torn down, high waters making places inaccessible, downed electrical lines and demolished homes in Bowling Green, which is home to his university.

Many people lost their livelihoods, he said, detailing a local antique shop with significant damage.

"A lot of their products had been damaged," he said. "Their windows were all smashed in. It's hard to come to terms with it."

It has been difficult to get in touch with emergency officials in the wake of the storms, and debris now clutters the city, Collins said.

"Touching down in such a concentrated and urban area is just devastating and it is definitely hurting a lot of people's homes and businesses around this area," he said.

By Tori B. Powell
 

Pictures show devastation in Bowling Green, Kentucky

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Bowling Green, Kentucky, residents look at the damage following a tornado that struck the area on December 11, 2021.  GUNNAR WORD/AFP via Getty Images
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A resident of the The Cardinal Inn in Bowling Green, Kentucky, looks at the damage after a tornado touched down on December 11, 2021. GUNNAR WORD/AFP via Getty Images
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A Bowling Green, Kentucky, resident surveys the damage following a tornado that struck the area on December 11, 2021.  GUNNAR WORD/AFP via Getty Images
 

Kentucky governor: Tornado on ground for over 200 miles

Kentucky's governor says a devastating tornado touched down for 227 miles — more than 200 in his state — and deaths were feared in 10 counties.

Governor Andy Beshear said at a news conference Saturday that at least 70 people were feared dead in Kentucky, and the death toll could exceed 100.

"This will be, I believe, the deadliest tornado system to ever run through Kentucky," Beshear said.

Beshear said about 110 people were in a Mayfield candle factory hit by a tornado.

Local officials said national guard members and emergency workers from across the state were pouring into Mayfield to help with the search and rescue operation. 

By Associated Press
 

40 people rescued from Mayfield candle factory

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said 40 people were rescued from a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, where workers were apparently trapped during last night's storms.

"We're going to lose a lot of lives in that facility," he said Saturday at a press conference.

"I pray that there will be another rescue," he said. "I pray that there'll be another one or two but it's a very dire situation at this point."

Beshear said the building is "flattened," with cars from the parking lot sitting on top of it.

"It's huge metal drums, even ones with corrosive chemicals that were inside," he said of the demolished factory. "It's pretty awful to witness."

Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason said crews at times had to crawl over casualties to get to live victims. "That's just a picture of what they're dealing with down there," he said.  

TOPSHOT-US-CLIMATE-WEATHER
A woman walks away from what is left of the Mayfield Consumer Products Candle Factory as emergency workers comb the rubble after it was destroyed by a tornado in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 11, 2021. JOHN AMIS/AFP via Getty Images
By Tori B. Powell
 

Mayfield candle factory response is fire department's "main priority"

Officials are responding to a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, where workers were apparently trapped amid severe weather.

"It is a large facility that was devastated in this tornado so it's going to be a long, difficult job," Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason said Saturday at a press conference. "But we've got good crews out there."

Overnight, four structure fires were "very difficult to get to," said Creason. Each was extinguished and the threat is now under control.

Fire crews had to find a new station to operate out of as their main station was "in the direct line of the tornado." 

By Tori B. Powell
 

Kentucky governor says death toll is "north of 70"

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said the state's death toll is "north of 70" and could climb to over 100.

"Earlier this morning at about 5 a.m. we were pretty sure that we would lose over 50 Kentuckians, now certain that that number is north of 70," the governor said at a press conference Saturday morning. "It may in fact end up exceeding 100 before the day is done."

He said "the damage is even worse now that we have first light." 

By Tori B. Powell
 

Biden administration working with governors

President Biden said he was briefed Saturday morning on the tornadoes that hit the central U.S. 

"To lose a loved one in a storm like this is an unimaginable tragedy," he tweeted.

"We're working with Governors to ensure they have what they need as the search for survivors and damage assessments continue."

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Sen. Rand Paul asks Biden to "move expeditiously" to approve resources

Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Saturday asking him to "move expeditiously" to approve resources for the state. 

"A single tornado from that system may have been on the ground for over 200 miles, and a large swath of the Commonwealth has been severely hit," Paul wrote. "As the sun comes up this morning we will begin to understand the true scope of the devastation, but we already know of loss of life and severe property damage."

"The Governor of the Commonwealth has requested federal assistance this morning, and certainly further requests will be coming as the situation is assessed," he wrote. "I fully support those requests and ask that you move expeditiously to approve the appropriate resources for our state."

Paul said he and his team will do all they can to assist local and state officials in their response.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Amazon releases statement: "This is a devastating tragedy"

Amazon spokesperson Richard Rocha said in a statement early Saturday, "Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest sympathies are with the victims, their loved ones, and everyone impacted," after the roof of an Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, collapsed during a storm. At least two people are dead.

"This is a devastating tragedy for our Amazon family and our focus is on supporting our employees and partners," Rocha said.

Midwest Tornadoes
Emergency vehicles stage outside an Amazon fulfillment center after it was heavily damaged when a strong thunderstorm moved through the area on Deember 10, 2021, in Edwardsville, Ill. Jeff Roberson/AP
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

More than 30 tornadoes reported overnight

About 33 tornadoes were reported across several states overnight, as of Saturday morning, according to CBS News meteorologist and climate specialist Jeff Berardelli.

The strongest tornado went through four states and may have been on the ground for 250 miles, which, if confirmed, would be a record. 

Watch Jeff Berardelli's report on the severe weather, and where the system is headed: 

Severe weather outbreak leaves path of deadly destruction 02:49
 

Hundreds of thousands without power

Hundreds of thousands of power outages are being reported across 10 states from Texas to Michigan .

Over 100,000 outages have been reported in Tennessee, while tens of thousands are reported in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and several other states, according to poweroutage.us

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Kentucky governor declares state of emergency

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has declared a state of emergency amid fears that dozens of people may be dead in the state due to severe weather. 

"This has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky's history, with multiple counties impacted and a significant loss of life," he said in a tweet Saturday morning. "I have declared a state of emergency and submitted a request to @POTUS for an immediate federal emergency declaration."

Many people are feared dead at a factory in Mayfield.

"There were about 110 people in it at the time that the tornado hit it," he said at a press conference. "We believe our death toll from this event will exceed 50 Kentuckians and probably end up 70 to 100."

Contributing: The Associated Press 

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