The new year brought extreme weather to southern and central Kentucky as at least nine tornadoes, ranging from EF0 to EF2, touched down in the state.
Affected areas include parts of the state already reeling from even more powerful tornadoes two weeks before Christmas that killed a record 77 people.
The strongest of Saturday’s tornadoes hit Hopkinsville shortly after 9 a.m. and reached a peak wind speed of 115 mph. The EF2 tornado was on the ground for 1.1 miles and had a maximum width of 125 meters, said Paducah National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Smith.
It remained on the ground for a minute, causing extensive damage to the roof of a church in the city, removing the canopy of a gas station and uprooting several trees.
Gov. Andy Beshear, who toured storm-damaged Christian County Monday morning, said the Hopkinsville storm had no fatalities.
Smith also confirmed that an EF1 tornado with a peak wind speed of 90 mph struck south of Allensville, Ky., and stayed on the ground for more than five miles.
The other seven tornadoes have been confirmed by the Louisville National Weather Service office. Some hit the same areas leveled by the horrific tornado that tore through the Commonwealth on December 10-11, although recent storms have not been as severe, meteorologist Ron Steve said.
Following:Was the tornado that hit Mayfield an EF5? Here’s how the National Weather Service decides.
“These tornadoes that we saw on Saturday were much more typical tornadoes than you see in Kentucky,” Steve said. “They were very short-lived spin-ups; they didn’t last very long.”
The National Weather Service has confirmed the following tornadoes:
- An EF0 at Bowling Green
- An EF1 in Northern Barren County
- An EF0 in Hart County
- An EF1 in Taylor County
- An EF1 in Marion County
- An EF1 in Madison County
- An EF1 in Estill County
There were lots of downed trees and damage to barns and outbuildings, Steve said. But, “fortunately, all of the houses affected – their damage was limited to damage to the roof, siding and windows. I don’t think we observed any significant structural damage to the houses,” he said.
It’s not uncommon to see nine tornadoes in a single day, he said, although it’s not common to see tornadoes in January in Kentucky.
“The costs are immense”
Speaking from tornado-ravaged Mayfield, Ky., after visiting Hopkinsville, Beshear announced several next steps for communities still recovering from December’s tornadoes.
Beshear said he would submit a request to the federal government on Monday requesting an extension of the 100% payment for debris removal and temporary housing for an additional 60 days.
“When you look at where downtown Mayfield still is, we know it will take much longer than 30 days and the costs are immense, exceeding $100 million to finally clean up this debris,” Beshear said. “We have notified the federal government that this is coming. We have the support of the entire Kentucky federal delegation, so we will be moving forward with this very important request.”
Beshear said progress has also been made to speed up the process of getting people from hotels to semi-permanent accommodation such as motorhomes or RVs.
“We are working at the state level to see all the different ways to expedite this and hope to have additional news as soon as late this afternoon,” he said.
The governor encouraged those affected by the storms to apply for SNAP disaster and unemployment benefits, which extend to people who would not traditionally be eligible, such as farmers.
Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan said the measures Beshear announced will “tremendously” help communities like hers and others across Kentucky affected by the tornadoes.
“I hated to think that my city, which we all hold so dear, would be bankrupt from debris removal before we even started to rebuild,” she said. “Just this week, we’re starting to look at the rebuilding process. It’s underway, but we need to get our city almost up to speed before we can do that.”
Hopkins County Executive Judge Jack Whitfield said about 52,000 cubic yards of debris had been picked up in the county, including hard-hit Dawson Springs, which “is just an astronomical number, and that’s not is just a drop in the bucket”.
“We know it’s going to be so expensive,” he said. “And so the information that you’ve provided to try to ensure that our communities can rebuild, clean up and rebuild homes the way we want it to happen – not necessarily just the cheapest way, but the best way for the future.”
Whitfield praised the cooperation between government officials across the aisle.
“Disasters aren’t political, he said, and thank God right now none of us are either,” he said.
Contact reporter Krista Johnson at [email protected]