FRANKFORT, KY (WOWK) – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear updated the state on the deadly tornadoes that struck Western Kentucky just under a week ago.
More than 70 Kentuckians have died in connection to the storms. The governor said Tuesday those who died range in ages from 2-months-old to 98-years-old.
Police in Bowling Green announced this afternoon a 13-year-old reported missing after the tornadoes was found dead this morning. The Bowling Green Police said the girl’s mother, father, three siblings and grandmother were also killed in the disaster. Officials in Bowling Green also say with the tragic discovery of the teenager’s body, all 244 people originally reported missing from Bowling Green have now been accounted for.
The storms also destroyed several homes and businesses and knocked out power to thousands of people. Beshear says reports show 138 Kentuckians went to emergency rooms following the tornadoes, but there is no data on how many people were or are still hospitalized or what their conditions are.
The governor says the state parks are opened to displaced residents and first responders, and the timeline for the openings has been extended to four weeks. Those in need of emergency housing can reach out to their local emergency management office or local state park for assistance.
“We here in Kentucky have felt the love and support of the entire country and of the entire world,” Beshear said. “You know, walking through it yesterday, and actually being able to get further back in Dawson Springs, the devastation is still – I don’t know if the right word is profound, traumatic, painful – especially, for me, from a town that was your safe place growing up… but we have despite all that pain felt the love.”
Individuals and business owners who experienced losses can apply for assistance at DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585, or by downloading the FEMA App.
The state has also started a relief fund for those impacted. Those who want to donate to that fund can visit TeamWKYReliefFund.ky.gov. The fund has already raised more than $9.89 million through more than 66,000 donations. Beshear says the state will work to make sure these funds are available to support Kentuckians for the long-term recovery from the disaster.
“We’re not broken,” Beshear said. “We will rebuild. We’ll get through it, and we’ll get through it together.”
According to the governor, President Joe Biden, who went to Kentucky Wednesday, Dec. 15 to survey the areas hit by the tornadoes, has approved Beshear’s request for a 100% federal cost-share through the Public Assistance Grant Program beginning 30 days from this past Sunday, Dec. 12. Officials say this covers the eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures including direct federal assistance.
Beshear says eligible applicants for the cost-share include local and state government agencies and some certain private nonprofits. The governor says the approval will allow the state to allocate more funding to other parts of the recovery and rebuild efforts.
Officials in Kentucky say after 30 days, the cost-share will be at 75%.
Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett says thousands of customers are still without power, not counting those serviced by the Mayfield Electric Company, which was destroyed.
Kentucky First Lady Britainy Beshear also announced Monday evening the launch of the Western Kentucky Toy Drive to help the families who lost so much in the tornadoes just weeks before Christmas. The state will be accepting donations from today through Saturday, Dec. 18. The drive is collecting items for children from infants to teenagers including toys, books, electronics, and $25 VISA or Mastercard gift cards.
All items donated must be unwrapped, but Kentuckians can also donate wrapping materials such as paper and bows along with their items. The first lady says multiple law enforcement agencies will be accepting the donations. This toy drive is not accepting clothing items at this time.
For more information on the drive, visit the governor and first lady’s websites.
The Salvation Army is also taking up monetary donations to assist those impacted by the disaster. Beshear also encourages Kentuckians to donate blood to the Red Cross to help the area’s hospitals and medical centers.