MAYFIELD, Ky. – Darril Johnson’s sister didn’t know what she was doing at the Mayfield Consumer Products factory and why she worked at night; she only knew that her husband had left her on Friday night and that they had never heard from her again.
He was standing in the gravel near the huge metal and wood ruins where his sister, Jane Johnson-Williams, had taken a shift a few days earlier. The factory where he works, 45 miles off the road, closed as storms approached, Mr Johnson said. She couldn’t find anyone in Mayfield to tell her anything.
On Sunday night, Mr. Johnson finally received the message. His sister was dead.
Sunday was a day of terrible discoveries across the country, where Friday night’s tornado erupted, leaving a deep imprint of devastation that covered more than 220 deadly miles. But as workers dug up the rubble on Sunday and small town coroners counted the dead, there was hope that at least the death toll would not be as large as initially feared.
On Sunday night, Troy Propes, chief executive of Mayfield Consumer Products, who runs a candle factory destroyed by a tornado and fears it could cause the most deaths in the storm, was interviewed. said it was only eight. people were confirmed dead at the factory, and six more were missing.
Company spokesman Bob Ferguson said more than 90 of the approximately 110 workers on the plant’s late shift on Friday night were accounted for.
However, Gov. Andy Besher told reporters on Sunday that the state had not confirmed those numbers and that a search was ongoing at the scene.
“I think there were a few bodies,” Mr. Besher said. “The provinces are huge.”
The number of tornado casualties includes people killed in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Tennessee, but the highest number of deaths was undoubtedly in Kentucky, where Mr. Besher said at least one rtta county has a two-digit number. Dozens of people died in Warren County, several of them children; There were 11 victims in Muhlenberg County, all in the small town of Bremen. One was 4 months old.
“We are still finding the bodies,” Mr Besher said. “I mean, we have corpse dogs in cities, they don’t have to be.”
Ill., In Edwardsville, officials announced the names of six people who died while working at an Amazon delivery warehouse hit by a tornado. “There are currently no additional reports of missing persons,” the Edwardsville Police Department said in a statement Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, more than 50,000 customers in Kentucky were still without power, and more than 150,000 in Michigan were also affected by the storm. Mr Besher said there are “thousands of homeless people” in Kentucky, but while the devastation has yielded exact numbers, it is not yet available.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen damage on such a scale,” he said.
But even though the hurricane was being calculated slowly, much was still unknown.
In Dawson Springs, where Mr. Besher’s father was born and where his grandfather was buried, the list of missing persons was eight pages long, with an interval, the governor said in an interview with CNN.
On Sunday, the slabs lay bare along the streets of Dawson Springs, where houses once stood. The beds were hung on trees and scattered around the living quarters. Groups searching for victims and survivors left spray-painted signs on the walls.
On Friday night, bruised and scratched families walked through the rubble, searching for medicines, insurance information and food stamps.
Lacey Duke and her family were looking for the two missing cats. In the midst of calling out the names, they described the 22-second deafness of being stuck in a stormy basement on Friday night and its almost apocalyptic consequences. Their house was folded like an accordion. The mobile home disappeared. The teenager injured his arm so badly that he had to be amputated. The boy’s grandmother was trapped under the car.
“It’s been a tough year,” Ms. Duke said. He was involved in a car accident, his son was sick with Covid-19, and everyone in his department at the auto parts supplier he worked for was fired. “And then it happened.”
The destruction of the hurricane system opened up the night world of warehouses and factories in the city and suburbs along its way, where people worked to transport seasonal packages or make scented candles for $ 8 to $ 12 an hour. . There was a stream of rage across communities that were badly affected by the storm as people demanded to know why so many were at work after being signaled of impending danger.
Ill., At a church service in Granite City on Sunday morning, the pastor raised his hand when retired steelmaker Paul Reagan asked him to pray for the relatives of the six people who died in the Amazon warehouse.
“There’s no reason for us to lose our family members,” Mr. Reagan said, “because the corporate wants American dollars.”
Protests over the incidents at a candle factory in Kentucky have intensified, with preliminary estimates suggesting the majority of deaths were reported across the state.
Officials said that although most of the workers at the plant were not there at the time of the tornado and were sheltered in the designated area of the building, why did the plant remain open after some people were warned of the severity of the storms? they asked.
The Mayfield Consumer Products plant was one of the largest employers in the county, but employment declined and declined significantly in some years due to layoffs and other years due to labor shortages.
The plant recently advertised 10- and 12-hour shifts starting at $ 8 per hour, and “frequently required” mandatory overtime. Several inmates at Graves County Jail worked there Friday night as part of a prisoner release program. According to prison records, all survived the storm; a deputy from prison did not do so.
When asked why the plant was not closed on Friday night, Mr Propes said the company had made the best decisions in the situation and that it was safer to hunt workers inside the plant than to send them home on the road.
“Looking at the past through the lens, I don’t think it’s right,” he said. “I have to say with the same facts to review, do you make the same decisions? And I think the answer is yes because our team did what they had to do.”
Isaiah Holt, 32, heard tornado sirens while on his shift in the wax and scent department. On Sunday, he was lying in a hospital bed in Nashville, suffering from a broken lung and ribs, and he was also working in a factory and caring for his brother, who was tiled when the building collapsed. Mr. Holt liked his job, he said. But he asked if the plant should remain open after a tornado warning was issued. “They just had to cancel,” he said.
In Mayfield, 38-year-old Angel Romero watched his wife cook chicken soup and heat a tortilla in a brick oven. Mr. Romero, a father of two children aged 8 and 5, looked at his ruined, now unrecognizable home.
“When he arrived, he swallowed everything in his path,” he said. She looked at her children. “They’re still trying to rework what happened.”
The Latino population in Mayfield has grown rapidly over the past decade, with immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala and newcomers from Puerto Rico coming to work in chicken factories and in Las Velas – the nickname of many dead factories.
“The Latino community has been deeply affected by this tragedy,” said Ana Masso, the wife of Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana pastor, who was collecting donations to help people in the community who were left homeless and lost loved ones. or both.
“Most people don’t know where to go or who to ask for help,” he said. “I don’t know where we’re going from here.”
Erik Berger Edwardsville, Ill., Contributed to the report.