Kentucky gov. pledges support to tornado survivors ahead of Christmas

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  • Andy Beshear
    63rd governor of Kentucky

Christmas is just days away, but the holiday is shaping up much differently than expected for those who were in the path of the catastrophic tornado that tore through Kentucky earlier this month.

At least 76 people lost their lives during the outbreak on Dec. 10 into Dec. 11, with others still hospitalized from their injuries.

"We do have some people still in the hospital and in difficult conditions. So, we continue to pray for them. We have zero people that we know of being missing, and we have zero rescue operations," Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.

Mayfield, Kentucky, took a direct hit from the EF4 tornado after nightfall on Dec. 10, with its 190-mph winds making it one of the strongest twisters of the entire year across the U.S.

AccuWeather news reporter Sarah Gisriel spoke with some survivors in Mayfield this week, including a mother and her four-month-old son, Michael.

"His dad calls him an F4 survivor," Prisilla Derevag told Gisriel. Derevang was at home with her son when the twister struck. Everything happened in the blink of an eye.

As the EF4 tornado sped toward her home, Derevang hid in a closet with her son and used her own body to shield him from debris.

"We heard windows shattered, people screaming afterwards, you know, ‘help, help,'" she said.

The four-month-old did not cry amid the chaos that destroyed the house that once stood around them. Since then, Derevang and her son are staying at Kenlake State Resort Park, about a 40-minute drive east of Mayfield.

Tornado survivor Prisilla Derevag and her four-month-old son survived the EF4 tornado that struck Mayfield, Kentucky, on Dec. 10, 2021. (AccuWeather/ Sarah Gisriel)

Derevang's story is one of many across the region, and with the peak of the holiday season about to arrive, a cloud of uncertainty looms overhead. She is also one of around 175 people staying at Kenlake State Resort Park this Christmas.

Gov. Beshear visited the park this week to meet with some of the survivors and voice his support to help everyone in these trying times.

"I can tell you, we're gonna be there with them every single step and we just want the rest of the world to stay with us, to stay with these families that they've adopted," Beshear said.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear visits tornado survivors at Kenlake State Resort Park. (AccuWeather/ Sarah Gisriel)

And it's not just people who have been displaced by the twister, but also dozens of pets.

"One of our first days out in the field, 50 animals had come into that shelter that particular day... some of those we brought in and some of those came in through other avenues," Diane Robinson of the Humane Society told AccuWeather's Kim Leoffler.

"They don't know where their people are they don't know anybody's looking for them and you know strangers are out trying to catch them or bring them in and so there's so much stress on those animals," Robinson added.

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Amid the catastrophic damage and need for assistance just days before Christmas, Gisriel explained that the people that she spoke with are more thankful than anything else.

"You would think that this would be a Christmas where they would just be miserable, really, but everyone that we met today was just full of joy and just thankful that they are alive and that they are even able to have a Christmas," Gisriel said.

Kentucky's First Lady Britainy Beshear has helped to set up storefronts for the families impacted by the tornadoes ahead of Christmas and is still collecting gifts and other goods for those wanting to help those in need.

For the latest weather news check back on AccuWeather.com. Watch the AccuWeather Network on DIRECTV, Frontier, Spectrum, fuboTV, Philo and Verizon Fios. AccuWeather Now is now available on your preferred streaming platform.

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