President Joe Biden approved a federal declaration of emergency for the state of Kentucky at the request of Gov. Andy Beshear Saturday following devastating tornadoes that officials estimate killed at least 70 people.

Beshear declared a state of emergency Friday night and activated the state's National Guard to help with damage control. The governor also asked the White House to declare an emergency and to send resources, a request that was granted when Biden vowed to surge resources to devastated regions.

"Today, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. declared that an emergency exists in the Commonwealth of Kentucky," the White House announced. "He ordered Federal assistance to supplement Commonwealth and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, and tornadoes beginning on December 10, 2021, and continuing."


The assistance includes ordering the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief in the region to alleviate the hardship placed on local communities. FEMA said it is sending two management assistant teams to help with all federal coordination efforts and damage assessment teams. Additional staff and resources are standing by to assist in Kentucky and other states as needed.

"My heart is with the people of Kentucky after the devastating tornadoes last night," FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell tweeted Saturday. "I just spoke with Gov. Beshear to ensure they have all federal resources necessary as FEMA continues search and rescue efforts."

The president said he intends to visit the affected region once a trip can be arranged without disrupting rescue efforts.

"I said I'll be happy to come, but I don't want to be in the way," Biden said. "When a president shows up, he shows up with an awful lot of personnel, an awful lot of vehicles, an awful lot of — we can get in the way unintentionally. And so, what I'm working with the governor of Kentucky and others who may want me to be there, to make sure we're value added at the time, we're not going to get in the way of rescue and recovery. I do plan on going."

Biden spoke with the governors of the states affected by the severe weather conditions Saturday morning and advised them to call him directly if any additional federal assistance was needed. Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, and Missouri have all reported fatalities from the storms.

“We, the five governors that have been impacted by the tornado, just got off the phone with the president of the United States, and President Biden assured us of support but also expressed support for what we’re going through during this time, and wanted us to pass that along to our citizens,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN.


At least 70 people are dead in Kentucky, an Arkansas nursing home struck by a tornado resulted in at least one death and 20 people being trapped, and hundreds of thousands of Tennessee homes are without power after 36 storms swept across six states Friday evening. Officials are unsure of the exact death toll as they continue their rescue efforts in the affected areas.

Over 100 tornado warnings were issued nationwide before midnight Friday, the most ever recorded for a day in December. FEMA advises residents between Mississippi and southeast Virginia to keep an eye on the weather as the storms head east.