President Biden approves emergency disaster declaration for Kentucky as crews continue to assess damage in hardest-hit areas

Photo Credit: Sen. Whitney Westerfield

UPDATED: President Joe Biden approved Gov. Andy Beshear’s request for an emergency disaster declaration, the governor announced in a press briefing in Bowling Green Saturday afternoon.

At the same time, President Biden held a press conference about the tornadoes stating he has spoken with the governors of the states hit hardest by the deadly storms, including Kentucky, and stated Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has already deployed emergency response teams, search and rescue teams, as well as water and other supplies.

“The federal government will do everything, everything it can possibly do to help,” Biden said Saturday afternoon.

Beshear noted there have been changes to FEMA and federal assistance and there will be more money available to help rebuild.

The governor has also activated the National Guard and is deploying 181 guardsmen in the early morning hours including search and extraction and debris clearance personnel.

At the press conference in Bowling Green, Beshear and others noted these are the deadliest storms to hit the state and they expect there to be more than 100 casualties. One of the most devastated areas was a candle factory in western Kentucky where 110 people were working last night and 40 have been rescued so far. Double-digit losses are also expected in Bowling Green alone.

Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanan said more than 500 homes and 100 businesses in the Bowling Green area have experienced significant damage.

Beshear also announced the creation of theTeam Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund and provided information on how Kentuckians can donate to these efforts.

The Kentucky Chamber has also compiled and released a list of ways Kentuckians can help those impacted by the storms.  

This story will continue to be updated with further developments.

At least 70 people were killed from Friday night into Saturday morning, as devastating tornadoes crashed across the western part of Kentucky.

Governor Andy Beshear said Saturday morning it was the deadliest storm system to ever hit the Commonwealth, suggesting the casualty count could exceed 100 by the time all is said and done.

“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history,” Beshear said during a press briefing early Saturday morning. “For those that have seen it, what it’s done here and Graves County and elsewhere, it is indescribable.”

The city of Mayfield in Graves County was the site of the most deaths, where a candle factory in the town was hit with approximately 110 employees inside. Around 40 people were able to be evacuated from the facility, which contained dangerous equipment and suffered major structural damage.

“It’s a very dire situation at this point,” Beshear said. “I think the largest loss of life in this tornado event is and will be there.”

At least four different tornadoes ripped through the western part of the state, causing damage to multiple Kentucky cities along the way. Beshear contacted the administration of President Joe Biden asking for a disaster declaration for Kentucky in the aftermath of the extreme weather and tragic deaths, which was supported by the entire Kentucky congressional delegation in a release:

Kentucky’s federal delegation, including U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senator Rand Paul, and Representatives Hal Rogers (KY-05), John Yarmuth (KY-03), Brett Guthrie (KY-02), Andy Barr (KY-06), Thomas Massie (KY-04), and James Comer (KY-01) sent a joint letter today to President Joe Biden expressing their support for Governor Andy Beshear’s request for a disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Kentucky regarding the overnight tornadoes and severe weather.

“We write to draw your attention to the December 11, 2021 letter from Governor Andy Beshear requesting a disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Kentucky due to the severe weather events…We strongly support this request and ask for your timely consideration,” the delegation stated in their letter to the President. “Unfortunately, at least 50 deaths have been reported across multiple counties in the Commonwealth as a result of these tornadoes. The Kentucky National Guard and Kentucky State Police have been mobilized to provide support to Kentuckians, but emergency response has also been hampered by the storm damage.”

Tens of thousands of Kentuckians are without power, and countless without shelter. And many businesses have been devastated.

Disaster Help Desk for Business—Businesses and chambers can call 1-888-My-Biz-Help (888-692-4943) for direct support from disaster recovery experts. 

The Kentucky Chamber has extended heartfelt condolences to those impacted and is working on compiling information to share on ways to help as they become available.

Political leaders across the state have been speaking out in the aftermath of the storm.

“Please be in prayer for the families who lost loved ones in the terrible tornadoes that swept through Western Kentucky last night. Also be in prayer for the outstanding first responders who have been on the ground all night long,” Kentucky Congressman James Comer of the 1st District in western Kentucky said.

“We are heartbroken to awaken this morning to the devastation caused by the violent weather that tore its way across the Commonwealth last night, claiming lives and most significantly impacting parts of western Kentucky. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all Kentuckians affected by this tragedy. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to first responders for providing immediate aid to their communities amid this unimaginable destruction and stand ready to assist in recovery,” said Senate President Robert Stivers.

“My office has been in touch with folks on the ground in Western Kentucky through the night and this morning. We know we’ve lost lives in the community, entire towns have been wiped out, and there’s been significant damage to agricultural infrastructure. I join fellow Kentuckians in praying for those who’ve lost loved ones to these devastating tornadoes. At the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, we are working with other agencies and stand ready to assist in the response,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

In response to the tornadoes and severe weather in Western and Central Kentucky, Attorney General Daniel Cameron activated the price gouging hotline.  Kentuckians can report price gouging by calling 888-432-9257 or by visiting  Due to service issues from the storms, if Kentuckians have trouble connecting to the hotline, they can also report price gouging by calling 502-696-5300.

This story will continue to be updated with further developments.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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