Five EF-1 tornadoes touched down in Christian County on the morning of Jan. 11, according to Christian County Emergency Management Director Randy Graham in a phone interview last week.
The Enhanced Fujita Scale classifies EF-1 tornadoes as having 86 to 110 mph winds.
Graham said he received official confirmation of the three additional tornadoes from the National Weather Service last week.
“It was five EF-1 tornadoes. Two south of Hopkinsville and three north of Hopkinsville,” he said.
Graham said the severe weather events this past weekend impacted the entire county.
“We had five EF-1 tornadoes that affected the county at the same time,” he said. “The entire storm system had a county-wide effect. We had many people’s lives that were affected. It’s just hard to see that many people affected in Christian County.”
Additionally, Pat Spoden, an operations officer with the National Weather Service in Paducah, confirmed that a downburst hit the city limits of Hopkinsville Saturday.
“A downburst is a large section of wind that comes out of thunderstorms,” he said. “That’s very difficult to determine where and when that’s going to occur.”
Spoden was part of the survey team which evaluated the storm damage in Hopkinsville.
“We’re looking at the damage,” he said. “It was very wide. It was almost a mile wide. So, it’s probably not a tornado. The type of damage that was done was damage to roofs and siding and a lot of tree damage. Because it was so wide, and looking at the kind of damage that was done, the most likely scenario is a high-wind event came to just that section of Hopkinsville.”
Spoden said a downburst is a natural occurrence.
“When large chunks of winds come down and the environment is just right — and it really was just in that neighborhood it appears — they are here and gone. We had winds probably close to 100 mph — not at every house and every location in that area, but certain sections seemed to get stronger winds than others.”
Spoden said when the National Weather Service issues weather warnings based on radar readings, the experts are not always sure what is going on on the ground level.
“You don’t always know what is going on until afterward,” he said. “That’s why we go out and do those storm damage surveys … so we can learn from that. We are definitely going back over this event to see if we can do better next time.”
Spoden said Kentucky residents should be prepared because weather events like this can happen at any time.
“In this part of the country, severe weather happens every month of the year,” he said. “This time of the year, anytime it gets warm — around 60 degrees and maybe even warmer — that’s when things are most likely going to occur in the next day or two.”
Spoden advised the community to make sure they have ways to get warnings.
“Get something to wake you up in the middle of the night — a weather radio or some kind of service that will let you know when something like this is heading your direction so that you can take action if you need too,” he said. “Be weather aware. Know what could happen. Plan your day around that.”
“It just reinforces the need to get that information out and make sure that citizens are aware when we have that type of storm system coming in,” he said. “They really need to be paying attention to the weather and the media outlets so they are aware when the storms are coming and to take shelter when needed.”
Graham said he does not believe Christian County will be eligible for federal disaster assistance.
“They require the damages to be uninsured or underinsured,” he said. “It looks like the vast majority of the damages that we have throughout the county are going to be insured losses for the most part. So, it’s going to be rather difficult for us as a county to meet our threshold … so we’re not going to have that assistance available from FEMA for that event.”
Graham said Christian County’s threshold for a disaster declaration is $289,000.
“That’s not total losses, that’s uninsured or underinsured losses,” he said.