UW Combined Fund Drive

December 16, 2021

Deadly Tornado Outbreak: How to Help

Damaged vehicles and personal property are strewn over a wide area along Kentucky 81, Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Bremen, Ky, after a devastating tornado swept through the area on Friday night. (Greg Eans/AP)

Last week a series of devastating tornadoes left a path of devastation in communities across six states. 

More than 50 tornadoes caused widespread destruction and injury in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois on December 10 and 11. At least 88 people have been confirmed dead, with more than 120 still missing.

Officials warn that the death toll will likely rise as emergency responders continue to search for survivors amid destroyed and unstable buildings.

See the damage: Mayfield drone footage reveals tornado damage

Kentucky has been particularly hard-hit, with at least 74 people killed and many communities leveled. Damage to infrastructure has been widespread, with thousands in the region without power or water and hundreds without shelter. President Biden has approved an emergency declaration for the state.

The Weather Channel called this disaster the deadliest U.S. tornado outbreak in a decade.

Government agencies, nonprofits and disaster relief organizations are scrambling to assist the communities ravaged by the deadly tornadoes. Food, water, shelter and blood products are the most immediate needs for communities, along with medical supplies and medications, pediatric care items, personal protective equipment and nutritional supplements.

Tornadoes are more common in the U.S. than any other country. To learn more about staying safe before, during and after a tornado, read these tornado safety tips.

Donate Blood

The American Red Cross reports that blood donations were at a historic low before the deadly tornados, resulting in the worst blood shortage in over a decade. There is an urgent call for blood donations to help victims of the disaster.

Note: You may still donate blood, platelets or plasma after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.


Consider making a one-time gift or setting up monthly payroll deduction through the UWCFD to one of our member organizations actively responding to the aftermath of this disaster:

The American Red Cross (charity code 0337346) provides many relief services in the aftermath of a major storms and tornados, including sheltering and feeding residents, distributing clean-up supplies such as shovels, rakes, tarps, and work gloves, conducting damage assessment of homes impacted by storms, providing mental health support, including counseling for families impacted by storms and tips on self-care and how to cope.

The American Red Cross is in urgent need of blood donations to be delivered to hospitals in the affected areas, as they are experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade.

AmeriCares (charity code 0315518), a health-focused relief and development organization, has deployed an emergency response team that has begun their work in the heavily impacted areas in and around Mayfield, Kentucky. The organization is also readying relief supplies for shipment to the affected communities.

Mercy Corps (charity code 0316589)  is a global team of humanitarians working together on the front lines of crisis, disaster, poverty, and climate change to create a world where everyone can prosper.

CARE (charity code 0315522), an international aid organization based in Atlanta, has provided water, food, shelter, and cash assistance to the families affected by the tornados.

Feeding America (charity code 0464861) is committed to providing meals, water, and supplies to Kentucky and Arkansas’s heavily impacted areas. If you prefer to support their national disaster relief program, you can contribute to the Feeding America disaster relief fund.

The Salvation Army (charity code 1478728) teams of personnel are providing meals to residents, first responders, and volunteers in Mayfield, Kentucky, a town that was directly in the path of the storms. Trained personnel ensure resources and services are focused where needed most.

Direct Relief (charity code 0316325) works in the U.S. and internationally to equip doctors and nurses with life-saving medical resources to care for the world’s most vulnerable people. Teams continue a multi-state tornado response focusing on delivering essential medications to cold storage, such as TDap vaccines, antibiotics and insulin.

International Medical Corps (charity code 1479246) relieves the suffering of those affected by conflict, disaster and disease, often in difficult and dangerous environments. We deliver vital healthcare services and training that help devastated populations move from relief to self-reliance. IMC is working with local partners to provide temporary shelters, generators, medical supplies and equipment, and hygiene items.

Save the Children (charity code 0315475): Tornados and severe weather events can destroy or disrupt infrastructure critical to children’s well-being. Save the Children’s emergency response team is mobilizing to meet the most urgent needs of children most impacted by the central U.S. tornados.


The tornados left hundreds of pets separated from their owners and without a home. The national network of Humane Societies, with help from many animal welfare nonprofits, is working to reunite pets with their owners in the affected regions, as well as to alleviate the overflow of animals in local shelters by transferring them to northern states where their chances of adoption are higher.

Humane Society Disaster Relief (charity code 0314983): Our Animal Rescue and Response team is prepared to answer the call for any large-scale emergencies, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, utility outages and more.

ASPCA: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (charity code 0315252): At the urgent request of the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS), we are mobilizing our disaster response teams to provide critical support for animals impacted by the devastating tornadoes.

Other Ways to Help

An initiative from Senate candidate Charles Booker is seeking people to make wellness calls. Visit charlesbooker.org/relief/.

Kentucky Branded, a clothing store in Lexington, is donating all of the proceeds from the sales of its “Pray for Kentucky” T-shirt to communities affected by the tornadoes. The shirt costs $20.