news·5 min read

How You Can Help Tornado Victims in the Midwest and South

Kitty Williams Holds up a sign that survived the storm as her friends and family help gather her belongings of what is left of his house after extreme weather hit the area,
Getty Images
Dec 14, 2021

It’s not usual for the Midwest and Southern United States to see tornadoes during the winter. But in mid-December, multiple tornadoes and storms wreaked havoc across at least six states: Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. The death toll has reached 88. And 74 of those deaths were confirmed in Kentucky alone. But these numbers could grow in the coming day as rescue efforts continue. And some communities have been flattened as officials try to figure out exactly how much damage was done. But the road to recovery could be a long one. And those who have lost their loved ones and their homes need help. 

What to Know About the Tornadoes’ Path of Destruction

Kentucky has been the hardest hit, particularly the western part of the state. The death toll there has reached 74 — including at least seven children. In Dawson Springs, officials estimate 75% of the city has been destroyed. One woman described “flying through the air” while on a mattress and trying to hold on to her kids.

About 75 miles southwest, Mayfield was also hit hard. The city’s mayor says there’s no running water or natural gas. Many buildings and homes in the city were destroyed, including a historic courthouse. And thousands across the state have lost power or heating.

  • Speaking of Mayfield: Employees were working at a candle factory in the town when the tornadoes hit, causing the building to collapse. The destruction left eight dead. And more than 90 people were rescued from the debris. This has led to labor Qs from some media outlets about why employees were working through the storm. 

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KY Gov. Andy Beshear (D) called the storm “the most devastating tornado event” in the state’s history. He’s ordered flags to fly at half-staff for the victims. A judge executive in Graves County (where Mayfield is) said local officials are “in the trenches, trying to find people.” 

Meanwhile, other states affected by the storm are making their way through the debris. And more casualties are being recorded. With at least four in Tennessee, two in Missouri, two in Arkansas, and six dead in Illinois. There, the victims were killed after an Amazon warehouse collapsed. OSHA is investigating what happened and could issue penalties if they find workplace safety violations. 

In the meantime, recovery efforts are underway. President Biden has approved an emergency disaster declaration for Kentucky. And directed FEMA to offer additional federal resources and coordinate with local authorities. He’s also done the same for Illinois and Tennessee. The president plans to visit KY on Dec. 15 for a storm briefing, and will visit Mayfield and Dawson Springs.  

Members of the National Guard are already on the ground, and working to remove debris in KY. Beshear, who lost family members in the tornadoes, has also reportedly pledged to provide $5,000 in burial expenses for families who’ve lost loved ones. But the road to recovery will also be pricey. AccuWeather estimates the tornadoes have caused about $18 billion in damages across the impacted states.

How to Help Tornado Victims

Organizations in the Midwest, South, and nationwide are doing what they can to support the tornado victims who’ve lost everything. Especially ahead of the holidays. And you can give back too. Here are some ways to help:

  • The American Red Cross: The disaster relief org is mobilizing. They’re calling for blood donations. And reportedly providing meals and shelter in KY, TN, MO, and AK. 

  • CARE: The international humanitarian agency is asking for donations to get emergency aid to Kentucky families for things like food, water, and emergency cash vouchers. 

  • Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund: Beshear set up this fund. The money will be used to help victims in western KY and to begin rebuilding communities. 

  • Convoy of Hope: The non-profit works to address hunger and provide disaster response around the world. And is asking for donations to help survivors in the impacted states as they send supplies like food and sheltering supplies. 

  • Blood Assurance: This org collects blood donations across the South. And is calling on people to make appointments because of a “critical need” in Tennessee and Kentucky. 

  • Kentucky Counseling Center: They are collecting donations to directly give to counselors and social workers in Graves County (where Mayfield is). 

  • Mercy Chefs: This org mobilizes to provide people with meals after natural disasters. And now they are in Kentucky and are asking for donations and volunteers. 

  • The LEE Initiative: They work to ensure more diversity and equality in the restaurant industry. They’ve reportedly pledged and spent $15,000 on food to be served to tornado victims and to help people out during the holidays. 

If you need more ideas, here’s a list of orgs you can support. And check out our tips on how to vet charities before you donate.

theSkimm

It's been a rough year for a lot of people. The pandemic is still taking its toll, inflation is rising, and some people have lost their jobs. Now, historic tornadoes and storms have caused hundreds of Americans to lose everything in a flash. They're left to rebuild their lives from the ground up, while mourning those they've lost.

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