Mayfield, Kentucky, Likely to Be Without Heat, Water for 'Long Time' After Deadly Tornado

The mayor of Mayfield, Kentucky, warned that residents in the city will likely be without heat, water and electricity for a long time after Friday night's deadly tornado destroyed the city's infrastructure.

Mayfield has highs in the 50s and lows near freezing Monday as residents wait for their power and heat to be turned back on for the buildings that weren't leveled. However, its unlikely utilities will be restored anytime soon based on the level of damage Mayfield sustained.

A cluster of tornados Friday killed dozens of people and leveled homes and buildings across five states. Kentucky was hit by four tornados, including one with a path of about 200 miles, according to authorities. Mayfield sustained extensive structural damage and at least eight people were reported dead at a nearby candle factory.

"Our infrastructure is so damaged. We have no running water. Our water tower was lost. Our wastewater management was lost, and there's no natural gas to the city. So we have nothing to rely on there," Mayfield Mayor Kathy Steward O'Nan told CBS. "So that is purely survival at this point for so many of our people."

According to poweroutage.us, an estimated 26,000 people are without power in the state. Roughly 60 percent of those were in Graves County where Mayfield is located. It is unknown when utilities will be restored to the community.

Tornado, Destruction, Kentucky
A car sits among the remains of a destroyed house after a tornado in Dawson Springs, Ky., Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. A monstrous tornado, carving a track that could rival the longest on record, ripped across the middle of the U.S. on Friday. Michael Clubb/AP Photo

Kentucky was the worst-hit by far in the cluster of twisters across several states, remarkable because they came at a time of year when cold weather normally limits tornadoes. They left at least eight people dead at the state's Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory and another 12 were reported killed in and around Bowling Green. At least another 14 people died in Illinois, Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri.

Authorities are still trying to determine the total number of dead, and the storms made door-to-door searches impossible in some places. "There are no doors," said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.

"We're going to have over 1,000 homes that are gone, just gone," he said.

Beshear said Sunday morning that the state's toll could exceed 100. But he later said it might be as low as 50.

Initially, as many as 70 people were feared dead in the candle factory, but the company said Sunday that eight deaths were confirmed and eight remained missing, while more than 90 others had been located.

"Many of the employees were gathered in the tornado shelter and after the storm was over they left the plant and went to their homes," said Bob Ferguson, a spokesman for the company. "With the power out and no landline they were hard to reach initially. We're hoping to find more of those eight unaccounted as we try their home residences."

Debris from destroyed buildings and shredded trees covered the ground in Mayfield, a city of about 10,000 in western Kentucky. 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.

Firefighters in the town had to rip the doors off the fire station to get vehicles out, according to Fire Chief Jeremy Creason on "CBS Mornings."

"Words cannot describe the bravery, the selflessness that they've exhibited," he said of his employees. "We had to try and navigate through all the debris up and down our streets. We were responding with ambulances with three and four flat tires."

Downtown churches were heavily damaged or destroyed. The Reverend Joey Reed of First United Methodist Church told CBS that he was able to hold a worship service Sunday with a colleague at a different church after the tornado ripped through his. He said he and his wife were in the church as a wall collapsed and the ceiling caved in.

"Thanks be to God that the parts of the building that came down didn't come down on us," he said.

At the candle factory, night-shift workers were in the middle of the holiday rush when the word went out to seek shelter.

For Autumn Kirks, that meant tossing aside wax and fragrance buckets to make an improvised safe place. She glanced away from her boyfriend, Lannis Ward, who was about 10 feet (3 meters) away at the time.

Suddenly, she saw sky and lightning where a wall had been, and Ward had vanished.

"I remember taking my eyes off of him for a second, and then he was gone," Kirks said.

Later in the day, she got the terrible news—that Ward had been killed in the storm.

Four twisters hit Kentucky in all, including one with an extraordinarily long path of about 200 miles (322 kilometers), authorities said.

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

Pope Francis expressed his sadness over the "devastating impact" of the tornadoes. In a telegram sent Monday by Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the pope offered prayers for those who died, "comfort to those who mourn their loss and strength to all those affected by this immense tragedy."

At a Sunday service held in a church parking lot surrounded by rubble in Mayfield, residents came together to pray for those lost.

"Our little town will never be the same, but we're resilient," Laura McClendon said. "We'll get there, but it's going to take a long time."

"This is a tough morning ... but it's ok, we're still going to be all right, O'Nan said on "CBS Mornings."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kentucky, Tornado, Home, Damage
Sam Willett helps to salvage items from a friends' home Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Mayfield, Ky. Tornadoes and severe weather caused catastrophic damage across several states Friday, killing multiple people overnight. Mark Humphrey/AP Photo