Deadly tornadoes devastate parts of Kentucky and other states

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 9:31 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021
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2:38 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

One of the tornadoes was on the ground for at least 128 miles, official says

From CNN's Judson Jones

The deadly, long-track tornado that devastated numerous communities in Kentucky was on the ground continuously for at least 128 miles in the state, and likely longer, an official with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Paducah told CNN on Monday. 

Preliminary data from a flyover of the tornado damage indicates that the tornado cut a continuous path through the entire area of responsibility for the National Weather Service forecast office in Paducah. 

Since the tornado also tracked through the Memphis and Louisville offices of the NWS, the full distance traveled by the single tornado will require the completion of surveys from those offices as well. 

The tornado is one of at least 50 reported Friday night into Saturday across at least eight states. 

2:05 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Officials investigating if there were structural issues at Illinois Amazon warehouse hit by tornado

From CNN’s Kay Jones

The exterior of a damaged Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, on December 12.
The exterior of a damaged Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville, Illinois, on December 12.  (Liam Kennedy/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Officials are investigating if the Amazon warehouse hit by Friday’s tornado in Illinois had any structural issues before the storm, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said.

After touring the damaged warehouse Monday, he said a priority is to find out what happened in the Edwardsville building and investigate the situation. He said the local government, fire chief and incident commander in the area were already looking into what happened at the warehouse and that the investigation is ongoing. 

He said the tornado was unexpected — but that as unexpected storms increase in frequency, changes could be needed.

“It makes us wonder if there needs to be a change in code for these buildings,” Pritzker said.  

Kelly Nantel of Amazon said that the building was constructed consistent with code, but they are evaluating and making sure they learn from the incident.

Nantel said that the room where employees gathered during the storm is an interior room of the facility, but it isn’t considered a “safe room." Instead, it’s a “take shelter” room and had enough capacity for those who were working on Friday night, according to John Feldman, with Amazon.  

Nantel said employees were alerted via sirens that went off, as well as alerts sent to their cell phones. Leaders of the facilities also went through and told the employees on site about the warning. She said that employees are allowed to have their cell phones with them during their shift.

Feldman said that procedure was followed correctly by both employees and management. He said there was a “tremendous effort” to keep everyone safe on Friday night.  

1:08 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Biden on visit to Kentucky after deadly tornadoes: "I don't want to be in the way"

Fro m CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

President Biden is scheduled to visit areas impacted by tornadoes in Kentucky on Wednesday, but told reporters that his intention is to not be in the way.

"I haven't decided where I'm going yet. What I indicated to the governor when we talked about this two days ago was that I don't want to be in the way," Biden said during an update from the White House.

"There's a lot going on, and when the President shows up there's a long tail to follow of a lot of folks, and I just don't want to do anything other than be value added. But I want you to know that this administration has made clear to every governor, whatever they need, when they need it... make it known to me, and they will get it to them as rapidly, as rapidly as we can," he said.

12:52 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

OSHA opens investigation into Amazon warehouse collapse in Illinois

From CNN's Liz Stark 

Recovery operations continue after the partial collapse of an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 12, 2021.
Recovery operations continue after the partial collapse of an Amazon Fulfillment Center in Edwardsville, Illinois on December 12, 2021. (Tim Vizer/AFP/Getty Images)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has opened an investigation into the collapse of an Amazon warehouse in Illinois after an EF-3 tornado caused major structural damage to the building Friday, a spokesperson confirmed to CNN.  

“I can confirm that OSHA has opened an investigation into the building collapse at the Amazon Warehouse in Edwardsville IL due to a tornado. OSHA has had compliance officers at the complex since Saturday, December 11 to provide assistance,” said Scott Allen, regional director for public affairs and media relations for the US Department of Labor, in an email Monday.

“OSHA has six months to complete its investigation, issue citations and propose monetary penalties if violations of workplace safety and or health regulations are found,” Allen added.

At least six people died at the Amazon warehouse building collapse, CNN reported.


12:47 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

President Biden will travel to Kentucky on Wednesday

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Cleanup began on December 12, 2021 after a tornado ripped through the area in Mayfield, Kentucky. 
Cleanup began on December 12, 2021 after a tornado ripped through the area in Mayfield, Kentucky.  (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Biden announced he will travel to Kentucky on Wednesday to survey damage from tornadoes and severe storms last week.

According to a pool report, Biden said during a briefing on the storm with Homeland Security officials he is working with Kentucky's governor to make sure he is not in the way of recovery efforts.

The White House confirmed the trip and said in a statement he will travel to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, for a storm briefing, and to Mayfield and Dawson Springs, Kentucky, to survey storm damage.

Biden has spoken with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear multiple times since the storms and told reporters Saturday he intended to make the trip.

“I said, ‘I'll be happy to come, but I don't want to be in the way.’ When a President shows up, he shows up with an awful lot of personnel, an awful lot of vehicles, an awful lot of — we can get in the way unintentionally. And so, what I'm working with the governor of Kentucky and others who may want me to be there is I made — make sure that we are value added at the time, and we're not going to get in the way of the rescue and recovery. But I do plan on going,” he said.

He approved a major disaster declaration in Kentucky overnight.

12:27 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Two officers survived a tornado and saved a severely injured girl using an old door

From CNN's Alisha Ebrahimji

Graves County Sheriff's Deputy Chandler Siris and Sgt. Richard Edwards speak with CNN.
Graves County Sheriff's Deputy Chandler Siris and Sgt. Richard Edwards speak with CNN. (CNN)

Two officers were caught in a deadly tornado that ripped through a Kentucky community and — after surviving a beating from mother nature — rescued a severely injured young girl by carrying her out of harm's way on an old door.

Graves County Sheriff's Deputy Chandler Siris and Sgt. Richard Edwards were trying to position themselves where they expected the storm to come through in Mayfield, Kentucky. Before they knew it, the tornado was on top of them.

Debris was flying everywhere, beating on their patrol cars and making it difficult to do anything but hunker down and ride it out.

"As the wind picked up and it picked my vehicle and turned it sideways I was trying to back up," Edwards told CNN's John Berman on Monday. "He (Siris) was behind me and we just couldn't do anything. We just sat there. We tried to duck down and just hold on."

"There was some fiberglass that went through my passenger side window that hit me and there was about an 8-foot piece of wood that came through the back of my car and pierced it," Siris said.

After riding out the chaos, both deputies left their cars and ran to the nearest house for shelter. That's when they heard people yelling for help, said Edwards.

The pair ran back to one of their patrol cars, grabbed "go bags" with tourniquets in them, and ran back toward the home, being careful to run through the fields because downed transformer lines filled the roads.

"It was instantaneous," Siris said. "As soon as we got out of our cars, we knew somebody needed help and so we went to them."

Another deputy met them on the scene and that's when they saw a girl "very profusely bleeding," Edwards said.

"She was going into shock," he said. "We applied the tourniquet. We called for medics, (but) there's no way they could have got to us so we went outside and found an old interior panel door and we used that as a backboard. We loaded her up."

Read more here.

12:19 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Husband identifies wife as tornado victim from candle factory

From CNN's Nadia Romero

Janine Williams
Janine Williams (Family Photo)

Ivy Williams confirmed that his wife Janine Williams, who had been missing, died when a tornado tore through a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Friday evening.

Ivy was one of the first family members CNN spoke to after arriving at the factory on Saturday morning. He had been on the scene and even helped pull trapped workers from the debris. 

Williams told CNN on Monday morning that the Graves County coroner's office had called him, saying they had identified his wife's body.

He and his wife, 50, had four children together and 19 grandchildren.

1:05 p.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Owner of Kentucky restaurant destroyed by tornado: "It's just rubble now, there's nothing left"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

Suzanne and Wayne Flint speak with CNN on Monday.
Suzanne and Wayne Flint speak with CNN on Monday. (CNN)

"It's just a rubble now, there's nothing left," said Suzanne Flint, of Mayfield, Kentucky, pointing to her restaurant, which has been in her family for 75 years, while speaking to CNN's John Berman.

"It is devastating now. Like I said, my whole family has worked there sometime or another. Me, my mother, brother, my grandparents, my aunt — everybody has worked there at one time or another, and most of them are gone, so those were really the only memories we had left of them," Flint told Berman.

Flint's husband, Wayne Flint, was at a basketball game, 20 minutes away from the restaurant, when the tornado hit Friday. He described his decision to drive back home instead of taking shelter.

"They had told us everybody needed to take cover while we were at the ball gym. Well, I had the bright idea we're going back home because we had family here. And was that a mistake. I watched 18 wheelers flip over in front of me and my truck picked up off the ground a couple times. We got back here and once I got to her, we started our way up here," Wayne said.

"This is just terrible, this is just devastating to this whole place, you know, they're all good people here, everybody is good people and I'm going to try to hurry up and get this restaurant back up because I feel like this will give people hope, you know," Wayne, who's owns a construction business," Wayne, who owns a construction company, said.

"If I can stand some two-by-fours up and start building some walls and people see that we're not done, you know, we're going to go back. And I'm hoping that is what happens," he said.

For now, the Flints are still processing what happened.

"It is surreal to me right now, I guess. I don't guess it's hit me yet. I guess we're just going like machines," Suzanne said.

She adds, that their family still plans to celebrate Christmas. "We'll have Christmas one way or another. We got grandkids," she said.

11:32 a.m. ET, December 13, 2021

Kentucky governor says the loss of life is lower than expected at a candle factory in Mayfield

From CNN’s Gregory Lemos

Search are rescue crews work at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory early Sunday, December 12.
Search are rescue crews work at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory early Sunday, December 12. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear provided a tentative and unconfirmed by the state update on the current number of dead and uncounted for at the Mayfield candle factory that was severely impacted by the weekend’s storms.

Beshear said Mayfield Consumer Products, LLC is reporting that of 110 people at the facility during the storm, 94 are alive and have been accounted for. The governor said Mayfield Consumer is reporting eight deaths and eight people remain missing.

“We feared much, much worse and I pray that it is accurate,” Beshear said Monday during a press briefing. “With no phones, with 15 plus feet of wreckage that had a dozen back hoes trying to pull things off of it, there was no way at the time to know how many individuals made it out.”

Beshear said state officials are “actively working” to confirm information put out by the business.