Kentucky Raises $6M for Tornado Victims in 72 Hours, Toy Drive Ongoing for Kids' Gifts

After Kentucky was devastated by a series of tornados Friday that destroyed several communities, the state raised $6 million for victims in 72 hours, and volunteers are collecting donations for a Christmas toy drive for children who were affected.

Kentucky first lady Britainy Beshear started a toy drive as many families lost their homes just weeks before Christmas. The toy drive is ongoing and asks for unwrapped toys, books and $25 gift cards to be given to families who need them.

Additionally, the state set up a fund to collect donations for families affected by the twister outbreak. So far, the state has received $6 million in donations, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said.

Kentucky was the worst-hit state, with at least 74 people dead. So far, 88 people have died from the outbreak.

Beshar said the state's death toll could rise as authorities continue to search among the debris. Nearly 95 National Guard members are looking for people who are presumed dead.

"With this amount of damage and rubble, it may be a week or even more before we have a final count on the number of lost lives," the governor said.

Kentucky, Tornado, Home, Damage
Cherie Hampshire helps to clean up what is left of her mothers home after extreme weather hit the area, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on December 13, 2021. Kentucky officials said Monday that dozens of workers at a candle factory appear to have survived tornadoes that killed at least 88 people and left a trail of devastation across six states. Gunnar Word / AFP/Getty Images

The tornados cut a path of devastation that stretched from Arkansas, where a nursing home was destroyed, to Illinois, where an Amazon distribution center was heavily damaged.

In addition to the deaths in Kentucky, the tornadoes also killed at least six people in Illinois, where the Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville was hit; four in Tennessee; two in Arkansas, where the nursing home was destroyed and the governor said workers shielded residents with their own bodies; and two in Missouri.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Monday that it has opened an investigation into the collapse of the Amazon warehouse in Illinois.

Workers, volunteers and 450 members of the National Guard are fanned out in areas of Kentucky slammed by a series of tornadoes to begin the long process of recovery, including replacing thousands of damaged utility poles and delivering bottles of drinking water.

Kentucky authorities said the sheer level of destruction was hindering their ability to tally the damage. Still, efforts turned to repairing the power grid, sheltering those whose homes were destroyed and delivering supplies.

Across the state, about 26,000 homes and businesses were without electricity, according to poweroutage.us, including nearly all of those in Mayfield. More than 10,000 homes and businesses had no water as of Monday, and another 17,000 are under boil-water advisories, Kentucky Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett told reporters.

State and local officials said it could take years for some of the hardest-hit areas to fully recover.

"This again is not going to be a week or a month operation, folks. This will go on for years to come. This is a massive event," Dossett said.

Five twisters hit Kentucky in all, including one with an extraordinarily long path of about 200 miles (320 kilometers), authorities said.

Mayfield, home to 10,000, suffered some of the worst damage. Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees covered the ground in the city. Twisted sheet metal, downed power lines and wrecked vehicles lined the streets. Windows were blown out and roofs torn off the buildings that were still standing.

Not far from Mayfield, a church serving as a shelter in Wingo said it expected to host more than 100 people Monday night.

Glynda Glover, 82, said she had no idea how long she would stay at the Wingo shelter. Her apartment is uninhabitable since the wind blew out the windows and covered her bed in glass and asphalt.

"I'll stay here until we get back to whatever normal is," she said, "and I don't know what normal is anymore."

On the outskirts of Dawson Springs, another town devastated by the storms, homes were reduced to rubble and trees toppled, littering the landscape for a span of at least a mile. Jack Whitfield Jr., the Hopkins County judge-executive, estimated that more than 60 percent of the town, including hundreds of homes, was "beyond repair."

"A full recovering is going to take years," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mayfield, Kentucky, Tornado, Damage
Volunteers, mostly employees from the Mayfield Consumer Products factory, help salvage possessions from the destroyed home of Martha Thomas in the aftermath of tornadoes that tore through the region several days earlier, in Mayfield, Kentucky, on December 13, 2021. Gerald Herbert/AP Photo