Commonwealth Journal

March 26, 2013

Tornado caught Ferguson residents by surprise

By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Fergsuon —  

A photo captured by a Ferguson resident leaves no doubt about the violent storm that hit the small community on Sunday evening.
An image sent to Ferguson resident Tim Cooper’s cell phone shows a twister reaching down from the clouds and into the heart of Ferguson in the Waddle Street area.
Cooper and his family, who live on Bray Street, were not home at the time, but he said they were terrified when they saw the picture because their pets, Cooper’s father and his sister were all home at the time the tornado hit. 
“(The picture) was taken by a friend of mine and he sent it to my cell phone and told me ‘Tim, this looks like its heading into Ferguson,’” said Cooper. “‘You guys better take cover.’”
Experts on Tuesday released more details on the path of the tornado that tore through the residential area in Ferguson. 
The twister, which touched down at around 5:40 p.m. Sunday in the Waddle Street area just off Murphy Avenue, was deemed an EF-1 by officials with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Jackson, Ky.
Tornados are categorized according to the Enhanced Fujita scale, which categorizes tornado strength by peak wind speeds and amount of damage caused. Sunday’s tornado had winds estimated at 100 mph. 
In comparison, a tornado that, oddly enough, swept through almost the same part of Ferguson on January 30, was deemed an EF-0 tornado. That tornado packed winds of around 65 to 75 mph, and caused some downed trees and minor structural damage. 
That was the first tornado recorded in January by the Jackson Weather Service, which covers all of southeastern Kentucky and nearly all of eastern Kentucky. 
Sunday’s twister caught area residents by surprise, and the short, violent storm was already over by the time residents truly realized what had happened. Weather recognition equipment didn’t pick up the storm cell — in fact, it appeared to be just a rain storm on Doppler radar. 
According to the NWS, Sunday’s tornado touched down right on Waddle Street, which is near Gover Lane, and destroyed a concrete warehouse located there. That warehouse sustained some roof damage in the January tornado, and nearby residents said the owner of the warehouse had just recently completed repairs to the roof before Sunday’s storm hit.
A surveillance video taken at Sexton Motors nearby shows the moment of impact.
Soon after visibility drops in the video, sparks are shown flying from the warehouse as the electric lines are severed, and the warehouse roof is twisted upward into the air just as the building’s walls collapse. 
The video can be viewed at the Commonwealth Journal website at www.somerset-kentucky.com.
After it hit the warehouse, the twister moved in a northern path, crossing Reddish Street, Ford Drive, and Bray Street. 
“We were heading back up Newton (Street) and expected the worst,” said Cooper. “Some police cars were leaving, the storm had already went through.”
Homes and outbuildings on those streets sustained some roof and structural damage, and trees were uprooted and debris was scattered. A truck parked at a home on Reddish Street was completely covered by roof debris from the warehouse. 
The tornado’s path then adhered to Cooper Drive, and caused damage to houses and buildings on Panorama Street and Soard Street before the funnel was sucked back up into the clouds. 
Cooper said they realized the extent of the destruction when they turned toward their home on Bray Street. 
“Our neighbor’s car port and apartment on top were torn apart,” said Cooper.
The Coopers’ home was relatively untouched, except for some debris that had been scattered around the home, along with some lost shingles. A piece of roof had also been blown off and came to a rest in Cooper’s father’s back yard. 
The tornado’s path was about 700 yards and it had a damage width of about 80 yards, according to the NWS. 
No one was injured in Sunday’s tornado.