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NWS confirms tornado struck Henry County near Campbellsburg

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BY CHRIS BROOKE

Landmark News Service

Examples of damage from the powerful storm March 1, cropped up all over Henry County — broken trees, a

compromised power grid, an old barn dropped on a fence line, an overhang ripped off a house’s front stoop —

but the damage along Jones Lane in Campbellsburg looked different to one Henry County emergency management official who was on scene.

Along with other emergency volunteers, Mike Hilliard, in his role with the Campbellsburg Fire Department, started to respond to a report of a house with a tree down on top of it at 1817 Turners Station Road at 6:45 a.m.

Within minutes, though, dispatch came over the radio with a second call — a box truck caught by the gusts while south bound on Interstate 71, in the vicinity of Jones Lane, got pushed over into the median.

A family who rents a mobile home on a farm off Jones Lane also notified emergency officials that they believed a tornado had come through the area.

Hilliard lives nearby but couldn’t immediately drive to the location where all these weather impacts seemed to be

clustered, because a massive tree had fallen across Jones Lane and blocked the way.

“New Castle Fire and the road department came and got that one cleared for us, because Campbellsburg was dispatched initially on a tree down in Turners Station,” Hilliard said. “Then, while we were responding to that, we got dispatched on the truck. Then, these people called and said they thought their house had been struck.”

Checking out the tornado report, Hilliard saw the winds had moved the trailer, turned it so it sat crooked on its foundation. As a result, the mobile home was no longer connected to the deck built outside the back door.

Before he arrived at the trailer, Hilliard had to pass through a wide debris field of shredded barns and outbuildings strewn across the farm and blown east towards I-71. A line of trees along the interstate caught several of the scraps of tin and kept them from blowing into traffic there. “This is more scattering of debris than what you would see with straight line winds,” he said, at the same time stressing he’s not an expert on severe weather. “That’s what leads me to believe it was a tornado.”

Betsy Moore owns the farm, and she pointed out the many structures damaged and destroyed to Hilliard when he returned March 2 to investigate the storm further.

Gusting winds turned three wooden barns and a cinder block milking parlor into piles of rubble, completely unmoored a grain bin and shredded it, damaged the roof of another rented home on the property and ripped the top off the concrete silo.

“I was amazed to see the silo still standing, after taking that milking parlor the way [the winds] did,” Moore said.

Moore lives on the other side of I-71 and experienced wind damage there, too, especially on the open sided metal barn where she stored a tractor and other farm equipment.

“I couldn’t believe it,”

Moore shared her reaction to the storm. “I thought, ‘Oh no, everything I worked all my life for is gone.’”

As for cleaning up, her son Gary will gather all the scrap metal and take it to a recycling business. Moore plans to pile the wooden debris and dispose of it in a bonfire.

Noting the way trees broke high up, utility poles snapped, lumber twisted and splintered, those wind gusts in the storms carried a lot of force, Hilliard said.

“To my knowledge there was no mass destruction of homes, thank God,” he said while studying wreckage at Moore’s farm. “Just the way these boards shattered, if I were a betting man, I’d bet this was a tornado.”

Damage in other parts of the county could be explained by straight-line winds, but Hilliard measured a swath of damage about a mile long from Moore’s farm to a residence on Kentucky 55 where several trees fell in different directions. That’s consistent with a tornado touching down, he said.

The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed Hilliard’s suspicion, categorizing the damage in Campbellsburg coming from an EF-1 tornado.

“Several barns with damage, barns destroyed, major roof damage on newer construction homes, larger uprooted trees, a high concentration of damage on Jones Road near State Road 55,” the weather service’s initial impact survey said.

NWS officials decided peak winds estimated at 110 miles an hour caused the damage at about 6:36 a.m.

“A NWS damage survey team concluded that an EF-1 tornado touched down two miles north of Campbellsburg, Ky., traveled one mile (crossing I-71 and overturning a truck).

And then lifted 2.2 miles northeast of Campbellsburg,” according to weather.gov.

“The most significant damage occurred on Jones Lane where 100 mph winds completely destroyed a couple of large barns, along with other small outbuildings. In addition, a large grain bin was demolished, and an anchored mobile home was pushed off its foundation on the north side of the damage path.

“A large debris field was scattered 200 to 300 yards downwind,” the report continued.

“East of I-71, the tornado damaged more outbuildings and snapped trees. After destroying another older barn, the tornado ended just east of Highway 55, where numerous softwood trees were snapped and uprooted.”

Strong straight-line winds estimated at between 70 and 80 mph also fed into a circulation pattern in this area, the report added.

No estimate of the damage caused by the tornado and the storm in general was immediately available.

Hilliard also recanvassed the area March 2, with a representative of the National Weather Service as well as Justin Hilliard, who has a meteorology degree and uses drone photography to study storm impacts. The drone flew over the path of the worst damage with the goal of digitizing it for further review.

The potential for tornadoes during severe thunderstorm events is always enhanced, Hilliard said, after consulting with the NWS meteorologist.

Residents should keep this in mind when they hear severe thunderstorm warnings.

While community warning sirens are helpful in the event of harsh storms, they are only intended for those who are outdoors and not expected to be heard by those inside their homes and businesses, Hilliard said.

Having recently launched messaging through hotalerts. org, he hoped more locals would sign up for the service in order to have the best chance to be informed in case of an emergency.

HOT Alerts can notify those who sign up by phone, text, email or different combinations.

Emergency officials used HOT Alerts just before the tornado struck Campbellsburg at 6:25 a.m. March 1, giving notice of the National Weather Service’s severe thunderstorm warning for Henry County until 6:45 a.m.

For more information about the messaging system and to sign up, go to hotalerts.org.