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Restoring power in a Kentucky town devastated by tornadoes could take months, officials say

The slew of tornadoes that killed dozens of people across multiple states Friday night left thousands of residents without electricity. Now, officials estimate restoring power to one of Kentucky's hardest hit towns could take months.

All Mayfield Electric and Water Systems customers are without power, according to The energy provider, which services more than half of the city of Mayfield, has not frequently updated its service status due to the severe weather. But, state officials confirmed that repairs in Mayfield are slow-moving. 

"We're making extraordinary progress for damage this significant across our commonwealth. Now that does not include Mayfield's electric. It doesn't exist. So, that will take weeks and months to rebuild," Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett said at a press conference.

Midwest Tornadoes
Volunteers, mostly employees from the Mayfield Consumer Products factory, help salvage possessions from the destroyed home of Martha Thomas, in the aftermath of tornadoes that tore through the region several days earlier, in Mayfield, Kentucky, Monday, December 13, 2021. Gerald Herbert / AP

Power has been restored to more than 10,000 customers in Kentucky since the storms hit late last week. Dossett asked residents in the state to be patient as restoration efforts are underway. 

"We're here during the winter months," he said. "It's cold outside in normal operations." 

Mayfield Electric and Water Systems is also struggling to meet the town's water demand. On Monday, it asked customers to conserve water and avoid non-essential tasks. "Water demand is so heavy right now, our system cannot keep up," the company tweeted.

At least 71 people have died and more than 100 are still accounted for after one of "the worst tornado events" in Kentucky's history, according to Governor Andy Beshear. Officials said they do not believe the death count will be finalized for several more days. 

At least 14 more people were killed in other states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Tennessee and Missouri. 

Crews have begun clearing the storm's debris while continuing to assess the damage. 

President Joe Biden visited Kentucky on Wednesday and said he intends to do "whatever it takes as long as it takes" to support the state.

"The scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief when you look around here," Mr. Biden said. "It's just almost beyond belief. These tornadoes devoured everything in their path."

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