Devastating outbreak of tornadoes ripped through several U.S. states

How to help tornado victims in Kentucky and beyond

Powerful tornadoes that ripped through western Kentucky and parts of Illinois, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee over the weekend have left dozens dead and destroyed homes and livelihoods across hundreds of miles.

At least 74 are confirmed dead in Kentucky – the hardest hit state – as search and rescue operations continue, Gov. Andy Beshear said at a press conference Monday. Another 109 people in Kentucky remain missing.

WATCH: Kentucky communities in shock as death toll from tornadoes rises

The storm leveled a candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky on Friday, where eight people were killed and eight remain missing, down from an initial estimate of up to 70 killed at the factory alone. Another 12 victims died in the vicinity of Bowling Green, Kentucky, a city east of Mayfield that also sustained a great deal of destruction. At least 14 more have been confirmed dead across four other states, including six people who were at work at an Amazon warehouse in Illinois when a tornado hit.

In addition, tens of thousands of Kentucky homes and businesses are currently without power or heat, and many lack access to clean water, the state’s director of emergency management said Monday.

Kentucky has been under a state of emergency since Dec. 11. The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the National Guard are on the ground to distribute supplies and assess the scope of the damage. Devastated communities are just beginning to grapple with what was lost. President Joe Biden has also signed emergency declarations for Kentucky.

Here are some ways to help

  • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear established the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to assist those affected by the Dec. 11 storms.
  • FEMA relief is available for those impacted.
  • Blood supply is critically low at hospitals in areas affected by the storms, according to the American Red Cross. Those interested in donating blood can make an appointment online or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). The organization is also providing shelter for those displaced by the tornadoes. To financially support Red Cross relief efforts, donate here.
  • Blood Assurance, a regional blood center serving Kentucky and other states, is also encouraging blood donations to help local health care providers. Appointments can be made online.
  • The Salvation Army has mobilized to provide food, shelter and other emergency care to victims of the tornadoes.
  • The Mayfield Community Foundation has set up a GoFundMe to support relief efforts in the hard-hit town.
  • The Kentucky branch of Feeding America is distributing ready-to-eat bags of food to people in several affected counties. Donations to the organization’s tornado relief fund offset the cost of the meals.
  • Global Giving and GoFundMe have set up relief funds to help victims across the six states hit by the storms. GoFundMe has also verified dozens more local fundraisers designed to help specific communities or victims.
  • Local authorities have also encouraged volunteering to support relief efforts when possible. The Bowling Green Fire Department is accepting volunteers via Facebook message. Gov. Andy Beshear also asked Monday for volunteers to assist the Kentucky State Parks, which is sheltering residents affected by the storm.

How to avoid charity scams

  • Avoid unfamiliar agencies and websites. There is a history of scammers creating websites that look like donation pages after a major tragedy, but in reality were scams.
  • Make sure that where you’re donating is a legitimate organization or a group that has a proven record of delivering aid.
  • Beware of phone calls and emails soliciting donations.
  • Do your research to determine if organizations are legitimate. Charity Navigator lists reputable organizations. Great Nonprofits and Give Well has reviews of nonprofit groups and can help you see how much of your money goes directly to relief.

If you or a loved one are experiencing emotional distress from the recent tornadoes, call the Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990.