Death Toll from Deadly Kentucky Tornadoes Rises To 77

by Shelby Scott

Earlier this month, Outsiders will recall the Midwest endured an onslaught of devastating tornadoes. Among the threats, the southern state of Kentucky experienced some of the worst damage. Now, weeks following the destruction, the latest death toll shows 77 fatalities. The most recent comes as Graves County saw the death of one of its infants.

According to Reuters, following the December 10th tornadoes that scathed a vast five-state area, the outlet’s initial death toll recorded a loss of 74. Of that previous total, 12 of the tornado victims were children. Immense destruction came as one twister traveled a 227-mile distance over the western area of the state.

Sadly, as the outlet reports, Graves County, KY sustained some of the worst of the damage and fatalities alike. Overall, much of the town was completely uprooted. For those following reports surrounding the Midwest’s devastation, Graves County lies home to the now-infamous candle factory that saw eight employees perish.

Now, officials continue to assess property damage and loss of life alike. So far, 16 counties across the southern state fall under a federal disaster declaration. Overall, this means individuals residing there are eligible for disaster relief funds sourced from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Further, in efforts to best support affected residents, KY state parks are lending their hand toward relief efforts. Since the December 10th tornadoes laid waste to areas across the state, the state parks have continued to provide housing and food services to more than 600 affected individuals.

As to the numbers, Reuters reports insured property loss totals could easily reach $5 billion.

Kentucky Tornadoes’ Wreckage Poses Greater Threat to Residents

The tornadoes that tore across KY earlier this month no doubt struck with unimaginable size, power, and overall devastation. With that, we’ve continued to see an increasing death toll, as demonstrated above, alluding to the initial threat the natural disasters posed.

However, even weeks following the statewide devastation, it appears the danger isn’t quite over yet. As residents pursue record clean-up and recovery efforts, debris left behind by the tornadoes poses a threat of their own.

In addressing the massive devastation across the state, KY Governor Andy Beshear stated the devastation left behind has created a “mountain of waste.”

This “mountain” consists of debris left behind by demolished buildings primarily. And, depending on their age, they might prove detrimental to human health.

Professionals knowledgeable about environmental sciences stated that, in cleaning up the wreckage, particles may take to the air, potentially composed of lead, asbestos, and other hazardous chemicals and materials.

With that, the University of Kentucky Center for Appalachian Research in Environmental Sciences (CARES) deputy director, Dr. Erin Hayes, encourages those working among the wreckage to seriously protect themselves.

“Asbestos can go into the lungs and lead is a known neurotoxin. So we want to avoid exposure to those,” she concluded.