Devastating images rarely seen outside of a fictionalized disaster film played out across televisions nationwide Saturday, as the nation woke up to see the devastation left behind by a series of catastrophic tornadoes that ripped through Kentucky and other neighboring states overnight.
In Mayfield, one of Kentucky’s hardest hit towns, tornado winds threw debris over 30,000 feet into the air, an altitude compared to what commercial airplanes fly.
Kentucky state senator, Whitney Westerfield, shared aerial images showing countless decimated homes and trees that have been ripped from the ground.
In the nearby town of Bowling Green, debris and broken light posts laid on the ground following the tornado.
“This isn’t the worst of it. Other places in Bowling Green were hit a lot harder,” Angie Jaggers Keen, 50, wrote on Facebook.
The woman, who lives just outside Bowling Green, drove into town to check on family shortly after the tornado hit.
“I’ve never seen an actual war zone, but if I had to guess, I’d say where I’m standing looks like one,” Keen told NBC News. “My family is safe, but there was loss of life. … My heart is broken for those families.”
In a statement Saturday afternoon, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he estimates the death toll “may in fact end up exceeding 100 before the day is done.” So far, authorities have estimated that the tornado has killed at least 70 people in the state.
“The damage is even worse now that we have first light,” Beshear said.
Bowling Green resident, Devin J. Clarkson, also shared dramatic images of the areas in his town that were most devastated.
Pieces of wood and belongings that were once inside these Bowling Green homes have now been heaped on the streets and in their front yards.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky, told MSNBC on Saturday morning that his state is now in need of “lot of temporary housing” following the devastating tornadoes.
President Joe Biden has issued federal emergency declaration in Kentucky in order to assist local authorities with disaster response.
“This will bring additional resources to Western Kentucky counties devastated by these tornadoes and allow for quicker reimbursements,” Beshear said. “I appreciate the President’s swift response during our time of need. Now we can get to work supporting our people as we recover.”
Kathryn Prociv and Sara Mhaidli contributed.