LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After a devastating tornado outbreak tore through much of Central and Western Kentucky, many communities have been left picking up the pieces.
Graves County was the hardest hit, where the city of Mayfield was demolished by a large, historic tornado.
"It's heartbreaking," Kentucky Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman told WHAS11 News. "These are Kentuckians and these are families who are hurting."
In Mayfield, a candle factory was leveled and had an estimated 110 people inside when it collapsed. Governor Andy Beshear said they expected it to lead to a large loss of life at that location alone.
“We don’t truly know the full scale of this devastation just yet," Coleman said. "It’s one step at a time, one day at a time.”
It's still unclear why so many people were still inside the building when the tornado hit, but Coleman said while it's too early to say what happened, the practices and protocols occurring at the factory are being evaluated.
"We have to learn from any mistakes that we may have made in that response, but certainly to make sure that we do the right thing moving forward as well for these families."
PHOTOS | Kentucky tornado damage
Coleman also said they are asking for people who live in the area to stay in place. She said if you can, you should still check in on your neighbors.
She added that people coming to view storm damage are impeding the work of first responders.
But her message is clear: “Don’t congregate around the areas that are the most physically devastated.”
“There is no reason for folks to be going there just to see the damage. You have social media, you can see all of the images, almost in real-time,” she said. “Going there is not doing anything to help the local community.”
Coleman said if people want to help affected communities, to do so from their homes like donating online through the Western Kentucky Relief Fund.
She said she appreciates the work of Governor Beshear and President Joe Biden being swift, yet compassionate.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that, not just as lieutenant governor, but as someone who was a teacher in school, who is a mother, who has a family,” Coleman said. “This is what you want to hear from your government, that they are there to help.”
She said President Biden would come to Kentucky, but not while first responders are working.
“He has been very clear with the Governor that he is waiting until his arrival will not impede the response,” Coleman said.
Despite his appearance, federal groups like FEMA will be coming throughout the day to assess the damage and assist crews with getting people what they need.
Coleman said the priority right now is taking care of families who have lost loved ones.
“This did happen overnight,” she said. “It’s not going to be fixed overnight.”
Full interview with WHAS11 reporter Rachel Droze below: