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Tornado survivor recalls harrowing experience: ‘I did not think I was gonna make it’

Kyanna Parsons-Perez was among the dozens of workers trapped when a candle factory collapsed in Kentucky amid severe storms overnight.

Last night, a candle factory collapsed with dozens of employees inside after harsh tornadoes ripped through the South and Midwest.

Kyanna Parsons-Perez, who made it out of the factory safely, opened up about what it was like to be inside the Mayfield, Kentucky, building when the roof gave way.

"It was extremely scary," she said on Weekend TODAY. "Everything happened so fast. They had us in the area where you go in case there's a storm, and we were all there. Then, the lights got to flickering, and then all of a sudden, we felt a gust of — we could feel the wind. Then, my ears kind of started popping, you know, as they would as if you're on a plane."

"And then you did like a little rock, like, this way and this way," she said while demonstrating how hard it was to stand still. "And then, boom, everything came down on us. All you heard was screams."

Parsons-Perez noted that there were a lot of Hispanic people who worked at the factory so she could hear people "praying in Spanish and just hollering." After she called 911, Parsons-Perez started livestreaming on Facebook in an effort to try and get more help to the scene.

"I went live because I was trying to stay calm, and keep everybody else calm and try to give us as much help as possible," Parsons-Perez said. "But it was absolutely the most terrifying thing I've ever experienced in my life."

Parsons-Perez, whose birthday is today, and the rest of the employees were trapped for two hours as they waited for help to arrive. With every passing minute, Parsons-Perez felt like she wouldn't make it out alive, especially when something fell on top of her after the roof of the factory collapsed.

"I did not think I was gonna make it at all. I was so scared," she said. "I fell in a very awkward position. My back was against the wall and I was right by the ... the water fountains."

"I had been in this weird position for so long that I couldn't feel my legs," she added.

Parsons-Perez didn't know what was going on until a man from the search and rescue team came to assist her. Although she begged him to move her, he told her that she would have to wait a while because she was trapped underneath five feet of rubble.

Thankfully, with the help of inmates from the Graves County jail, who were involved with the rescue, Parsons-Perez was able to make it out alive. Due to the terrible position she was in, she was one of the last people to leave the factory.

"I tell you, some of those prisoners were working their tails off to get us out," she said. "But we were able to get the debris under us to move around and we were able to get out."

Andy Beshear, the governor of Kentucky, told Weekend TODAY that the state's highest loss of life might be in the candle factory where Parsons-Perez was trapped. In a press conference Saturday morning, Beshear estimated that about “40 individuals” had been rescued from the factory, out of 110 workers who were on shift at the time.

Beshear said that the state's death toll might reach "70 or 100," adding that at least one town in the state had been "decimated" by the storms.

The tornado system affected several other states, including Illinois, Arkansas and Tennessee, and is expected to make its way across the country before hitting the East Coast later Saturday.