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Producer: Brandon Wickey
Tornado outbreaks on Feb. 29 and March 2 of this year affected practically every region of Kentucky. The Leap Day outbreak of 13 tornadoes damaged buildings in 15 counties across the state and caused several injuries. An even larger outbreak of 19 tornadoes on Friday, March 2, claimed 23 lives and affected 26 counties in Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service Storm Data Publications.
Many believed tornadoes weren't likely in Eastern Kentucky—or that the chances of being struck were so slim that it was a once in a lifetime occurrence. Both beliefs were shattered.
West Liberty, located in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, was hit by a tornado on Feb. 29 and then again by a far more destructive tornado on March 2. The larger storm hit the hospital, the elementary school, and the downtown, destroying businesses, county offices, and homes. Six people were killed in Morgan County.
Dave Shuffett visits the town of West Liberty to see how this hardest hit of communities is dealing with its loss and its recovery. Morgan County Judge-Executive Tim Conley gives us a tour, and we also visit the National Weather Service in Jackson to talk about the storm with Warning Coordinator Tony Edwards.
Some of the March 2 storms were particularly long lived. The powerful tornado that struck Henryville, Indiana, and later moved into Trimble County, Kentucky, stayed on the ground for 49 miles. The West Liberty tornado stayed on the ground for 86 miles, from Kentucky into West Virginia. Another tornado cut a 48-mile path through Wolfe, Magoffin, Johnson and Martin counties.
How can we be prepared for tornadoes? At the Louisville office of the National Weather Service, we learn more about the region's history of tornadoes and review how to prepare, from making a communication plan ahead of time to knowing where to seek shelter.
Between the two outbreaks, KET aired its annual weather call-in program, Severe Weather: Staying Safe, on March 1. John Heltzel, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, who was a guest on that program, looks back at his advice then and discusses the outbreak of the following day.
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