Deadly Tornadoes Storm Through Midwest


Alina Fairlie, Herald Writer

At least 30 tornadoes across 6 different states in the Midwest have been reported. The severe weather has hit Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee, destroying entire towns. A mad scramble has ensued aimed at finding missing people among the rubble.


Approximately 90 reported deaths came from Kentucky as of December 19th. The official death toll has topped 76. 


Many weather forecasters say that smaller tornadoes are expected in warmer seasons, but numerous large ones are very unusual in the middle of December. Weather tracker Brian Barjenbusch states, To have this number of damaging wind storms at one time would be unusual any time of year.” The tornadoes, spawned by a severe thunderstorm, have wrecked a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, which was said to have over 100 workers inside. Mayfield has been the center of most of the damage. The governor, who declared a state of emergency during the calamity of the storm, states that it was “the most severe tornado event in Kentucky’s history.” The state of Kentucky experienced 4 separate tornadoes, one of them staying on the ground for over 200 miles. President Biden is allowing emergency supplies to be delivered to the state for the relief effort.


Illinois also suffered severe damage, with 6 people dead from the destruction of an Amazon warehouse facility. Workers who wanted to evacuate were met with threats of unemployment, and drivers who attempted to return to base were told it would be seen as  “route refusal”. One Amazon delivery driver was told by her dispatcher, “If you decide to come back, that choice is yours. But I can tell you it won’t be viewed as for your own safety.” The driver is reported to be safe. This was the case for many drivers who sought refuge in the Amazon warehouse, only to find destruction. Many workers are beginning to question the company’s values and how they care for employee safety.


Researchers are unsure about the connection these tornadoes have to the climate change crisis. December tornadoes are extremely unlikely, but when they do occur, they are very destructive. In this particular chain of storms, warm air traveled from the Gulf of Mexico to the midwest and became tornadic. The phenomenon has been declared a “derecho,” which is a long and widespread wind storm that is met with many thunderstorms. There is specific criteria regarding duration and wind mileage, and this is the first December tornado in the US to meet it. It is likely that the first December derecho in the US is related to the warm winter weather the country has been experiencing. 


Official damage and death toll is still being assessed across the affected areas. Many funds are open to donate to tornado relief to help rebuild the areas in the following months.