In the last few weeks, we have experienced a plethora of weather events, everything from ice storms, snow storms, February thunder and flooding. Now, entering the spring season, the threat of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes exists.
Adair County seems to be a magnet for severe weather especially Cane Valley, Knifley and Pellyton, it always seems to hit there. In reality, these storm events can pass through any part of any county just as well. The northern part of Russell County has been ground zero for the last couple of tornado touchdowns. Tornadoes have no respect for hills, valleys or bodies of water such as lakes and rivers, even though it seems like they follow that path and often dissipate as they enter Russell County.
Being involved in severe weather coverage for over 30 years, I find it troublesome to learn most people don’t take these things seriously. As we enter the month of Severe Storm Preparedness, we want to discuss the difference in a severe storm/tornado watch vs.storm/tornado warning. A watch means the skies could be clear, warm temperatures and breezy conditions, yet the ingredients are coming together for unsettled weather to potentially develop in a few hours. It simply means to WATCH and prepare in the event a warning is issued. A severe storm/tornado WARNING means a tornado or severe storm has been detected by radar or has been spotted by trained spotters in the field. When a WARNING is issued, TAKE ACTION!!
Adair County is blessed to have an “Adair Weather Command” of trained people who report to the Breeding Area Volunteer Fire Department, who in turn, reports to the National Weather Service. This effort has been a tremendous asset to Adair County. These individuals are stationed throughout the county and are activated when storms approach. So, where do you get this essential information? NOAA Weather Radio is the best source for watches as well as the Weather Radio app by WDT. Radar Scope is a nice radar app for your phone. For warnings, a NOAA Weather Radio is important, but a device called “TornadoAlert” is also a credible source for warnings. A credible broadcast radio or television station is also a valuable source of weather information.
Outdoor warning sirens are there, but if you’re inside DO NOT depend on them to wake you up! They are for outdoor use and even then, depending on the noise around you, you may or may not hear them! Don’t place confidence on the outdoor sirens when indoors!! Depending on any social media for warnings is dangerous, internet service may go out! Alternate warning sources should be used in case cell phone coverage is out. Knowing what to do in a warning situation is vital! In a tornado warning, if you don’t have a basement or cellar, go to an interior room without windows. Schools and public buildings should have a storm safety plan, and you should follow those. In a school, avoid wide open areas such as gymnasiums and cafeterias. Go into hallways and interior bathrooms.
Being involved in broadcast media, I’ve given out thousands of warning situations and many people don’t don’t heed the word to abandon mobile homes during tornadoes, they are simply not going to withstand the storm. This is true for automobiles as well. Don’t chase tornadoes and abandon cars and trucks if you are caught in a tornadic storm. If caught outside, lie flat and face-down on low ground, protecting the back of your head with your arms. Get as far away from trees and cars as you can; they may be blown onto you in a tornado. Timing is vital! Take action and be alert to changing weather conditions!
We are nearing the 50th year anniversary of the April 27, 1971 tornado that moved through Adair and Russell County. The tornado passed three miles northeast of Columbia, to Vester and Christine. Six people were killed when the tornado demolished a number of homes in the Mount Pleasant Church area on KY 551. The church itself was leveled. A total of 51 homes, 33 barns, three churches, four trailers, and 100 other buildings were destroyed, and fifty more homes had major damage. In Russell County, the tornado moved east from east of Russell Springs, to Salem, and to Faubush. At Gosser Ridge, two people were killed on a farm as most of the buildings were swept away. Along the path, 35 homes, four trailers, 60 barns, and 79 other buildings were destroyed. There was major damage to 105 more homes. The Salem School was damaged. At one point, there were two distinct paths, as two funnels moved parallel to one another.
Weather service archives say the tornado was on the ground for nearly 14 miles. Since 1933, including the 1971 twister, Adair County has encountered 15 tornado events; 1961, 1964, 1971, 1997, two in 1998, 2006, 2010, two in 2015 and one in 2018. It is interesting to note from 1933, Russell County has had only eight tornadoes, those being in 1933, 1971, two in 1974, 1983, 1984, 1997 and 2012. In Adair and Russell Counties, 47 people have died in tornadoes and nearly 250 injured throughout the Green River/Lake Cumberland areas. The latest data from the NOAA Severe Storms Laboratory shows our area in an elevated risk for severe weather this spring and we take this time to simply say, live life as usual, at the same time, have your preparedness plan in place, know what you will do, where you will go and be familiar with weather terminology and use common sense when faced with these challenges!