Kentucky Tornado Death Toll Climbs to 20; Daniels Declares Emergency in S. Indiana

by Rick Howlett on March 4, 2012

State officials say 20 people are now confirmed dead from Friday’s tornado outbreak that tore through communities across Kentucky. More than 300 are injured.

Gov. Steve Beshear and other officials toured the devastation Saturday.

“The scope and magnitude of devastation in some of our communities is unlike anything I have ever seen,” Beshear said. “I’ve been in close contact with President Obama since Thursday to ensure we will have the resources our families will need to recover from these storms.”

Beshear has dispatched more than 300 Kentucky National Guard troops to the hardest hit areas. They include the Morgan County community of West Liberty (pictured), in eastern Kentucky, where six people were killed.

The governor has scheduled a 4:00pm press conference for an update on the state’s response to the disaster.

In hard-hit southern Indiana, the death toll is at least 12. A two year old girl who was found in a field in Washington County, Indiana remains in critical condition at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville. Her parents and two young siblings were killed in the storm.

Governor Mitch Daniels today issued a disaster declaration for eleven southern Indiana counties: Clark, Gibson, Harrison, Jefferson, Posey, Ripley, Scott, Shelby, Vanderburgh, Warrick and Washington.

Here’s the latest news release from the office of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 4, 2012) – Local and state emergency officials urge citizens to use extreme caution following Friday’s severe storms and tornadoes that caused widespread damage, injuries and loss of life. The Kentucky Department of Public Health reports 20 fatalities from the storms, and more than 300 people have been reported injured.

After visiting some of the worst impacted areas on Saturday, Gov. Steve Beshear warned Kentuckians to heed warnings from emergency managers to stay off the roads and away from affected communities.

“Unfortunately, after a disaster like the one we have experienced, people take to the road for one of two reasons: to offer unsolicited help, or to tour the damage. That’s not helpful to our emergency responders,” said Gov. Beshear. “Our emergency responders and National Guard troops need immediate and unfettered access to our roads, and they can’t effectively continue that work if they’re fighting traffic.”

People who want to offer assistance to affected communities should contact their local Red Cross chapter for information. Emergency managers strongly discourage people from traveling to these communities to offer help.

Interested parties wanting to make donations should go to http://kyem.ky.gov/recovery/Pages/VolunteerCoordination.aspx for directions and list of registered charities and affiliates.

Residents should be wary of using alternate heat and power sources, some of which emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. Carbon monoxide safety tips can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/co/guidelines.htm. Never run a generator indoors; never use a charcoal grill indoors. Be sure to follow manufacturers’ safety instructions when using alternate heat sources such as kerosene heaters. .

Residents beginning clean-up work should exercise great caution when entering damaged buildings. Never re-enter until the structure has been inspected and deemed safe by a qualified person. Be sure electric and gas have been shut off or disconnected. These and other safety tips on returning to your damaged home can be found at http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/return.shtm .

Friends or family who have been unable to locate loved ones since Friday’s storms are encouraged to register the missing person’s information on the Kentucky Emergency Management website at www.kyem.ky.gov or through the American Red Cross Safe and Well Program at www.americanredcross.org.

Several shelters have opened by the Red Cross to accommodate citizens displaced by the storm:

Morgan Central Elementary School

3201 Highway 460

West Liberty, KY

Grant County High School

715 Warsaw Rd.

Dry Ridge, KY

Morgan Community Center

147 Victory Ave.

Bedford, KY

Additional information

· The Governor has deployed a total of 387 National Guard Troops.

· The Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction has dispatched five general inspectors to assist with building assessments in counties hit by storms.

· Kentucky State Parks is offering a special rate to storm victims. Kentuckians can call a park for more detail. View www.parks.ky.gov for numbers and locations.

· The disaster response team of the Kentucky Department of Insurance went to Hardin and LaRue counties Saturday and met with emergency management officials to find areas hit hardest by Wednesday’s storms. Team members are giving out copies of the agency’s “Before and After the Storm” publication that includes information on what to expect during the claims process and tips dealing with an insurance adjuster. Copies of the publication have been sent to all local officials in these affected counties, and the team is monitoring responses of insurance companies to ensure an adequate number of adjusters are on the ground.

The Department of Insurance is working to send disaster response team members and materials into other counties hit by Friday’s storm. For more information, view www.insurance.ky.gov or call 1-800-595-6053.

(Photo courtesy of Kentucky National Guard)

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