Dozens are feared dead after tornadoes and severe storms ravaged homes, a factory, a nursing home and entire towns Friday night and Saturday morning in multiple states, including Kentucky, Illinois, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said he expected more than 70 deaths amid a path of destruction throughout western Kentucky in what he called the deadliest tornado event in state history. He said the tornado touched down for 227 miles, most of them in his state.
"I'm now certain that number is north of 70, and it may exceed 100 before the day is over," he said in a news conference early Saturday. He called the devastation "indescribable."
Elsewhere, officials reported fatalities after severe weather tore through an Amazon facility in Illinois and a tornado ravaged a nursing home in Arkansas.
The tragedy is expected to become even more grave as rescue efforts continue.
SEE THE DAMAGE:Tornado that tore through Kentucky
TORNADO HITS CANDLE FACTORY:'A dire situation' unfolds in Mayfield, Kentucky after tornado, governor says
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite imagery shows many tornadoes were reported across six states. Beshear said four tornadoes touched down in Kentucky, with most of the destruction coming from the tornado that began in Arkansas and stretched for more than 220 miles, until it reached Breckenridge County.
In Arkansas late Friday, a tornado struck the 86-bed Monette Manor nursing home, killing one person and trapping close to two dozen people inside as the building collapsed, Craighead County Judge Marvin Day told the Associated Press.
Five people are reported to have serious injuries, he said.
At least one person died after severe weather ripped the roof off an Amazon facility about 25 miles east of St. Louis in Edwardsville, Illinois, police Chief Mike Fillback told reporters Saturday. A wall about the length of a football field collapsed, he said. Two injured people from the facility were flown to hospitals.
In Tennessee, three people died in the northwest part of the state, emergency management officials confirmed.
During a press conference Saturday morning, officials said about 40 people have been rescued from a leveled candle factory in Mayfield. The exact death toll is unknown and is expected to increase. Coroners were called to the scene and bodies were recovered.
"The structure is just a pile of bent metal and steel," Mayfield Fire Chief Jeremy Creason said. "We had to, at times, crawl over causalities to get to live victims to get them out."
Around 110 people were in the facility at the time of the tornado, Beshear said. Cars were atop the flattened building, he said, along with heavy machinery and metal drums, ones with "corrosive chemicals."
"It's pretty awful to witness," he said.
“This has been the most devastating tornado event in our state’s history, and for those that have seen it, what it’s done here in Graves County and elsewhere, it is indescribable," he said.
The governor said he expects the death to reach 100 "before the day is over."
Early damage reports come in overnight
Beshear said there would be fatalities reported in Graves, Marshall, Warren and Hopkins counties, adding he would "be surprised if we don't lose people in at least five or more counties."
In Arkansas, Mississippi County Sheriff Dale Cook told KAIT-TV early Saturday that a woman died inside a Dollar General.
According to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, there were two deaths reported in northeast Arkansas and at least 20,000 are without power statewide.
Workers at a National Weather Service office took shelter as a tornado passed by the center in Weldon Spring, Missouri, about 30 miles west of St. Louis.
Live updates:Get the tornado news here
Death toll in Kentucky could be historic
Beshear said he expects "at least dozens" of fatalities from the candle factory's roof collapse.
According to the National Weather Service, the deadliest tornado event in state history occurred in Jefferson County in 1890, when 76 people were killed.
Just over 70 in Kentucky were killed by an outbreak of tornadoes across several states in 1974.
The governor declared a state of emergency before midnight, activating the National Guard and deploying about 200 Guard members — including search and extraction and debris clearance personnel — who were scheduled to arrive in affected communities Saturday morning.
"This has been one of the toughest nights in Kentucky history. And some areas have been hit in ways that are hard to put into words," Beshear said. "To all of our Kentucky families that are impacted by this, we want you to know that we are here for you, we love you, we are praying for you."
Contributing: The Associated Press