Survivors Recall Panicked First Moments As Tornadoes Touched Down

Recovery efforts are underway after a series of deadly tornadoes struck Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.

Cleanup and recovery efforts are underway after a deadly series of tornadoes struck at least eight states over the weekend ― and survivors are describing the heartbreak, panic and heroism they witnessed in those first devastating moments.

In Kentucky, a factory worker shared his harrowing story from the moment the storms reached the town of Mayfield.

Isaiah Holt was working at Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory on Dec. 10 when the tornado sirens started, he told The New York Times. Soon after, a storm leveled the factory and Holt found himself pinned under a mound of debris.

“I love y’all,” he said as he lay on the factory floor. “Every one of y’all, I love y’all. I’m sorry.”

A Kentucky National Guard helicopter surveys the tornado damage near Mayfield Consumer Products on Dec. 11 in Mayfield, Kentucky.
A Kentucky National Guard helicopter surveys the tornado damage near Mayfield Consumer Products on Dec. 11 in Mayfield, Kentucky.
Brett Carlsen via Getty Images

Holt sustained a punctured lung and broken ribs, and eight workers lost their lives while taking cover inside the factory.

Jarred Holmes, who also worked at Mayfield Consumer Products, told KHOU 11 he was supposed to work the night the tornadoes touched down, but his fiancée convinced him to stay home due to the ominous weather.

“She told me she had a bad feeling,” Holmes said. “I was going to go to work, but she basically demanded me to stay home.”

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, another worker at the Mayfield factory, told CNN that she did her best not to panic as a tornado tore through the building she was in.

“It happened so fast,” Parsons-Perez said. “We all just rocked back and forth, and then boom, everything fell on us.”

Jeremy Page, who moved to Mayfield only a couple of weeks ago, told NBC News that prayer got him through the storm, which shook the foundation of his home as he lay in bed Friday night.

A powerful line of tornadoes ripped through several states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee, leaving scenes of destruction that local government agencies are still working to assess. Among the casualties, an Amazon warehouse was destroyed in Edwardsville, Illinois, leaving at least six people dead.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is assisting in cleanup efforts and helping with other measures, such as locating missing individuals and helping those who are displaced, according to CNN.

Kentucky was particularly hard-hit. During a press conference, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said there have been at least 64 deaths in the state, and 18 of the victims have not yet been identified.

“Of the ones that we know, the age range is 5 months to 86 years, and six are younger than 18,” Beshear said, visibly struggling with tears.

Beshear also said hundreds of people are unaccounted for, and the death toll could increase.

At least 14 people were killed in other states.

On Saturday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration in Kentucky.

“We’re going to get through this, and we’re going to get through this together,” Biden said at a news conference. “The federal government is not going to walk away.”

The president is expected to be in Kentucky on Dec. 15.

HuffPost has reached out to a number of people in Kentucky and will update this story as more information becomes available.

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