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The latest on recovery efforts after deadly Kentucky tornadoes

It's been more than a week since devastating tornadoes ravaged parts of central and western Kentucky. Here's what happened in the aftermath.

KENTUCKY, USA — It's been a little over a week since a devastating tornado outbreak ravaged the central and western parts of Kentucky.

This article details the latest updates from Gov. Andy Beshear and other state and federal officials.

HOW YOU CAN HELP: How to help Western Kentucky families following historic tornado outbreak

Sunday, Dec. 26

Attorney General Daniel Cameron and officials from Mayfield and Graves County launched an emergency contractor registration program. This is designed to register contractors hoping to volunteer and assist storm survivors.

Registered contractors will receive placards to be displayed on site and in the contractor's vehicle.

“Our hope is that launching this contractor registration program in partnership with the City of Mayfield and Graves County will assist Kentuckians with identifying registered contractors and deter unscrupulous contractors from entering the region,” said Cameron.

Registration will begin Monday, Dec. 27. Representatives from the Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection will be on site to assist. The office will be at 1102 Paris Road #5 in Mayfield. It will be open 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday CT. The office will be closed Dec. 30 and 31. 

Any contractors already registered in Mayfield or Graves County can stop by to pick up their placard and complete their registration with Attorney General staff. 

There will also be scam and fraud prevention information available. The brochure can be found here.

Friday, Dec. 24

Mayfield Electric and Water System (MEWS) said 82% of their 5,560 customers have power. A recent survey discovered 979 customers are still without power. However, half of them are in the heaviest hit areas and will most likely be without power long-term.

The Mayfield Fire Department has been called to put out fires where power had recently been restored, and there have been injuries. 

Residents are advised to keep an eye out for electrical issues that might not be apparent when power is first restored, and to report locations where water meters need to be turned off.

Wednesday, Dec. 22

Beshear launched a new website to help those impacted by the tornadoes from Dec. 10.

Beshear said he wants to make all available information easy to access for people recovering.

“We are committed to the folks of Western Kentucky, and we won’t be here just this week or this month, but we will be here every single day for however long it takes to rebuild every building and every life, to get everyone as close as we can to where they need to be,” Beshear said.

The website includes links to housing services, replacing documents like birth/death certificates and drivers licenses, mental health resources and FEMA.

Additionally, tetanus shots and safety gear are recommended for all workers and volunteers that are helping to remove debris. According to a press release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, ambulances are already transporting people who have sustained various injuries in Mayfield. 

Fans at the Western Kentucky University and University of Kentucky basketball game donated toys and gift cards to western Kentucky.

Monday, Dec. 20

State officials have readjusted the number of those lost to the Kentucky tornadoes. Gov. Andy Beshear said during his Monday briefing, the numbers have been reflected to show that *76* Kentuckians were lost.

The Department of Public Health had confirmed 75 and were trying to track down three of those deaths from Dawsons Springs that had been counted in Hopkins County. Beshear believes those three deaths are in the Caldwell County numbers. Dawson Springs edges into Caldwell County and they believe those three are residents. So it pushed it to 75. 

However, one person who was rescued from the candle factory in Mayfield has now died as a result of their injuries. The total now stands at 76. 

There are no active searches or rescues which he says is a good thing. State roads that were closed to the storm damaged are now passible.

Beshear said 98.8% of cell service should be operable.

The Western Kentucky Relief Fund has now raised $21 million among 112,621 donors.

First Lady Brittainy Beshear's toy drive for families has been a success. 

They have now launched Western Kentucky Christmas Storefronts. Those toys will be available for storm victims. 

It will take place on Dec. 21 and Dec. 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST.


Kenlake State Resort Park

542 Kenlake Road, 

Hardin, Kentucky 42048

Lake Barkley State Resort Park

3500 State Park Road

Cadiz, Kentucky 

Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park

20781 Pennyrile Lodge Road

Dawson Springs, Kentucky 42408

Hope House Ministries At Forest Park Baptist Church

520 Old Morgantown Road

Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101

West Kentucky Educational Cooperative (WKEC)

435 Outlet Avenue

Eddyville, Kentucky 42038

If you can't make it to any of those locations, officials urge you to email toydrive@ky.gov with your county in the subject line to arrange another way for Santa to deliver toys this Christmas. 

Sunday, Dec. 19

According to the Mayfield-Graves Regional Emergency Operations Center Update, they have enough donations of water, clothing and other household items. Now they are asking for:

  • NEW red gas and yellow diesel cans. Used cans will not be accepted.
  • Electric and propane heaters
  • Extension cords (15-100 ft.)
  • Power strips
  • Tarps

You can call 270-727-5114 to schedule drop-off times. Other specific items or services can be scheduled through this link

To volunteer with home and business clean-up efforts, people should call the call the Tornado Volunteer Hotline at 270-216-0903 or email information to Mayfieldvolunteers@gmail.com. The update said people should include the number of volunteers, types of assistance you can provide and general availability.

There is now dusk to daylight curfew in Mayfield and other areas in Graves County. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife and the National Guard Military Police are assisting officers to enforce this curfew, and to give officers a break so they can be with their own families this holiday season that have been impacted by the tornadoes.

RELATED: Babies survive Kentucky tornado that tossed them in bathtub

Saturday, Dec. 18

Governor Beshear announced that 77 Kentuckians have died as a result of last week's tornado outbreak. He said there are no more people reported missing.

The Western Kentucky Relief Fund has raised more than $19 million from over 105,000 individual donations.

He said families who have lost loved ones will now receive $10,000 for funeral expenses and said the plan next is to provide assistance for uninsured homeowners who lost everything in the hardest hit areas.

"We're gonna work with FEMA to say who has applied for aid, who was uninsured, what were they awarded, and then let us do 10% more than that."

He also said six counties, along with those counties hardest hit, have been added to receive individual and public assistance those include: Christian, Hart, Hickman, Logan, Lyon and Ohio.

To apply for that aid, individuals and families can do one of three things:

  1. Apply online.
  2. Download the FEMA app.
  3. Call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

There are now 700 FEMA workers on the ground adding to the already 600 first responders working to help communities impacted by the storms, he said.

Beshear said state parks across the Commonwealth are providing housing and food services for 636 displaced Kentuckians and 180 first responders.

RELATED: Where to find disaster unemployment assistance if you were affected by the Kentucky tornadoes

Here's where there are vacancies:

  • Kenlake State Park - 13 rooms 
  • Lake Barkley - 2 rooms 
  • Barren River Lake State Resort Park - 20 rooms 
  • John James Audubon State Park - 2 rooms

Beshear said volunteers are still needed at Kentucky Dam Village, Kenlake, Barkley and Pennyrile state parks.

He said they have enough volunteers through Christmas Eve, but need more from Christmas Day through that next week.

Beshear also announced that the state now qualifies for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA). 

This kicks in for individuals who may not usually be eligible for regular unemployment assistance. 

Beshear said those who are self-employed, like farmers, or those who have lost employment as a direct result of the tornadoes are encouraged to apply. 

Credit: Governor Andy Beshear, Team Kentucky

To apply individuals will need to apply for, and get denied, for regular UI benefits, then attend an on-site session.

Individuals will need to provide their social security cad, recent tax forms, photo id and a bill showing physical address.

"This process doesn't seem to be created for folks who have lost everything," Beshear acknowledged. "My pledge is we will do the best we can to work through the complicated system that appears to exist."

"We will work with you on trying to find that documentation," he said.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 18, 2022.

RELATED: 'Please get these kids therapy': Focus put on mental health in aftermath of Kentucky storms

Friday, Dec. 17

So far, 77 Kentuckians have died as a result of the storm and one person from Hopkins County is still missing, Beshear said Friday. The youngest victim was two months old and the oldest was 98 years old. Deaths have been reported in at least eight Kentucky counties.

The governor said there are more than 1,300 state workers in the area, including National Guard members, employees at the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky State Police troopers and individuals with the Division of Forestry.

With most people accounted for, the National Guard is now moving its focus from search-and-rescue and recovery efforts to law enforcement to prevent looting.

FEMA will also have around 700 people on the ground during the week to help with recovery efforts.

Since the storms hit, volunteers have poured in from across the state with people across the globe wanting to help in any way they can. Beshear said more than $18 million have been raised through the state's Western Kentucky Relief Fund

As of Thursday, 70,000 gifts have been collected for First Lady Britainy Beshear's toy drive. The deadline is Friday.

“Yes, we are down; yes, we are hurting; but we are not defeated and we are not broken," Beshear said. "Together, we will dig out; together, we will clean up; and together, we will rebuild both structures and lives.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will visit several of the affected communities this weekend, arriving in Bowling Green Friday.

Thursday, Dec. 16

Beshear ordered flags to fly half-staff in honor of those lost and those suffering from the tornado. All state office buildings will lower flags to half-staff for one week.

According to the governor, FEMA has opened two mobile registration centers in Mayfield and Dawson Springs to help members of the community get help. He said more than 1,800 families have applied for assistance so far.

If you can't visit one of the mobile centers, there are three other ways to apply: You can apply on their website, call 800-621-3362 or by using the FEMA mobile app.

Beshear said on Thursday that a state government worker was pushed off the road and killed during the storm in Franklin County. The identity of that individual has not been released.

What happened

On Friday, Dec. 10, a line of severe storms moved through several states, including Kentucky, producing a series of deadly tornadoes. The tornadoes ranged from EF-1 to EF-4 leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The hardest-hit areas include Mayfield, Dawson Springs and Bowling Green.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado that hit Mayfield traveled more than 163 miles, breaking the record for longest tornado track in Kentucky history.

A state of emergency was declared Friday night before the storm hit. 

President Joe Biden signed a Federal Emergency Disaster Declaration on Sunday, which according to Beshear is the fastest declaration ever seen. When the president visited the hardest-hit communities Wednesday, he made a Federal Declaration of Major Emergency, providing coverage for 100% of the costs created by emergency response.

See videos of all of our tornado coverage here:

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