Thursday, 20 January, 2022
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Extreme Weather Hits US

Biden promises aid to tornado-hit Kentucky

Biden promises aid to tornado-hit Kentucky
US President Joe Biden (C) tours Mayfield, Kentucky, devastated by the December 10-11 tornadoes, on Wednesday. - AFP PHOTO

DAWSON SPRINGS: Severe storms battered the American Midwest on Wednesday evening, hours after President Joe Biden pledged increased federal assistance to Kentucky, where scores were killed and towns leveled by recent tornadoes, reports AFP.

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned of an "extremely strong" and "potentially record-breaking" storm system producing "a plethora of weather hazards" throughout several states in the central and northern part of the country Wednesday night, including "dangerously high winds," snow, thunderstorms, tornadoes and fire risks.

"These storms will have the potential to produce extreme wind gusts as high as 100 mph, as well as a strong tornado or two" in Iowa and Minnesota, the agency forecasted, with local NWS office Twitter accounts urging people to take shelter due to confirmations of rare December tornadoes.

More than 400,000 customers were without power in several states Wednesday evening, including Colorado, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa, according to poweroutage.us.

The latest extreme weather comes only days after violent tornadoes ripped through several southern states, including Kentucky, where Biden visited earlier Wednesday.

"The scope and scale of this destruction is almost beyond belief," the 79-year-old president said after visiting the towns of Mayfield and Dawson Springs.

"These tornadoes devoured almost everything in their path," he said in Dawson Springs in western Kentucky. "Your homes, your businesses, your houses of worship, your dreams, your lives."

Biden said the federal government would foot 100 percent of the bill for emergency relief for the next 30 days and will continue to do "whatever it takes, for as long as it takes."

Biden, who has made empathy one of his trademarks, strolled down a ruined street in Mayfield, stopping to chat and shake the hand of a woman who was seated in the rubble of a collapsed building.

Wearing a baseball cap and a dark blue suit with no tie, the president paused in the street at one point and bowed his head in prayer with the town's mayor and several other people.

Before touring Mayfield, a town of some 10,000 people, and Dawson Springs, population 2,500, Biden received a briefing on the damage from last week's tornadoes, which killed at least 74 people in Kentucky and 14 in surrounding states.

"There's no red tornadoes, there's no blue tornadoes," the Democratic president said in a reference to the colors of the nation's two largest political parties -- the red of Republicans and the blue of Democrats.

In addition to federal aid, more than 500 National Guard troops have been deployed to help with law enforcement, traffic control and recovery, along with volunteers and associations on the ground to support victims.

"We appreciate the president coming down, coming to Mayfield," Bryan Wilson, a lawyer, told AFP, as he sifted through the rubble of his firm's flattened downtown building. "It does mean a lot."

Wilson, speaking over the sounds of construction equipment removing debris, said he was trying to salvage legal files, client records, computers -- anything that would preserve the integrity of the business.

He said Biden's visit signals that people in Washington "do care about rural America."

"And hopefully that gives the incentive for people to stay, to build back," he said.

Wilson said he hopes Biden's trip heals some of the bitter political and cultural rifts in the country.

"America has been divided for too long," he said.

Brad Mills, a 63-year-old orthodontist in Mayfield, said his message to Biden was to expedite federal disaster assistance.

"Let's get the federal aid in here that we need," Mills said. "As divided as we are on so many issues, we've got common ground here."

Mills spoke to AFP outside his office in downtown Mayfield that had been his father's and his grandfather's before him. His son Stuart, who is in dental school, was on the roof putting on a tarp.

Asked if he was going to rebuild his practice, Mills said, "that's going to be the big question.

"It's so emotional right now, you can't make a rational decision."