Leaving Behind Devastation

The December tornadoes that devastated 4 states at once


Wikimedia Commons

TORNADO. This weekend, four states were hit by one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent history. As death tolls and numbers of people unaccounted for rise, meteorologists have speculated about the cause of this disaster at such an unusual time in the year as well as the sheer magnitude of the tornadoes.

“I think it’s going to be the longest and deadliest tornado event in U.S. history,” said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, following a destructive string of tornadoes that ripped through four different states in the southern and midwestern United States on December 10 and 11, 2021. Over ten counties in Ohio’s neighboring state, Kentucky were struck by these tornadoes, most notably Graves County, located in the western end of the state.

   WLKY meteorologist Susanne Horgan wrote that “preliminary reports show damage of a minimum of an EF-3 tornado. Dozens of homes and businesses have been damaged.” Eight tornadoes recorded over the two-day period reached the level of destruction of an EF-3 disaster, which signifies severe damage to the area. These eight tornadoes make up over one-third of the EF-3 tornadoes recorded around the world throughout 2021. One of the most notable tornadoes was dubbed the Quad-State Tornado, as it wreaked havoc throughout all four affected states, traveling from Arkansas to Kentucky across four hours, an unusually long time for a tornado to stay touched down. 

   The string of twisters was created during a thunderstorm in northern Arkansas and progressed through parts of Missouri and Illinois before tearing through Kentucky. The town of Mayfield, Kentucky was particularly damaged in the storm, and quickly became the center of national attention after images of the flattened Mayfield Consumer Product candle factory spread across social media, along with testimonies from surviving workers who claimed that they were threatened with firing if they left the factory as the tornado warnings were sounded. So far, eight people have died in the factory, raising questions about the prioritization of worker safety across many different industries and companies in the aftermath of the disaster. 

   The tornados left no structures in their paths unscathed, however, as “Numerous homes have collapsed. There’s been damage to nursing homes, damage to the court square,” said Graves County judge Jesse Perry. The death toll of the disasters is already beginning to reach the levels of some of the most deadly tornadoes in United States history. Although not the single most deadly, this family of tornadoes is the most deadly December tornadoes in United States history. This has been speculated to have been partially caused by the unusual weather that has been occurring recently as well as climate change. As tornadoes are caused by warm, humid air changing the direction and speed of winds, there is a definite possibility that the warming of the Earth will lead to more winter tornadoes than ever before. 

   The events of December 10 and 11 culminated in one of the worst natural disasters this year has seen. With an indefinite death toll and a massive amount of damage, it is clearly one of the most destructive tornadoes to ever hit this area of the U.S. So far, the death toll has reached over 80 people, with search parties still locating victims, and has left countless injured and homeless in the aftereffects of the tragedy. “I’ve got towns that are gone… it’s devastating,” said Governor Beshear.