By STEVE BITTENBENDER
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — Cleanup continues in communities across Kentucky that were hit with a line of tornadoes officials consider the worst to ever hit the state.
Late Monday afternoon, the state announced the death toll had risen to 74, and those who died ranged in age from 2 months to 98 years old.
That number, though, had not increased by Tuesday afternoon. However, Gov. Andy Beshear said more than 100 people remained unaccounted for after at least four tornadoes hit parts of western and southern Kentucky last Friday night.
Teams are still inspecting for damages from the storm as crews remove fallen trees and other debris from roadways.
“It feels pretty good to not just be pushing this stuff out of the way but to be loading it up and taking it out of town,” Gov. Beshear said Tuesday. “There’s something therapeutic about taking that chaos and destruction and death and getting it out of some of those areas.”
As workers restore power and water to the towns and counties impacted, state officials and others are amassing collection drives to help those in need. That includes a relief fund (secure.kentucky.gov), which sat at nearly $6.3 million on Monday night. Initially, that money will pay for burial expenses for those who died from the tornadoes.
In addition, First Lady Britainy Beshear started a toy drive (governor.ky.gov) that will take collections at state police posts and other locations across Kentucky through Saturday.
Unwrapped toys in original packages will be accepted, as well as coloring books, electronics and $25 Visa or MasterCard gift cards.
“This time of year, we all look forward to being home for the holidays, spending time with those who mean the most to us,” Britainy Beshear said in a statement. “Now, many of our families don’t have houses to go home to. Or even worse, they’ve lost someone they love who made their family whole. I can only imagine the pain and grief these Kentuckians are feeling at this moment.”
On Tuesday, Attorney General Daniel Cameron posted an alert advising residents to report any suspected scam artists who may be preying upon those whose properties were damaged or suffered other losses.
In a statement, Mr. Cameron said some contractors were going door-to-door to seek business. While not all those individuals are trying to scam homeowners, residents should still contact their insurance provider first and research contractors before settling on someone to perform repair work.
Other scam artists may try to solicit donations to phony charities, he added.
“Kentuckians in many of our western and central counties have already suffered devastating losses, and we are going to do everything in our power to ensure they do not encounter further losses as a result of scams,” Mr. Cameron said.