By Heather Tomlinson and Bill Mardis Commonwealth Journal
Officials confirmed a rare winter tornado touched down in one Pulaski County community early Wednesday morning as bloodcurdling sirens, wailing during uneasy predawn hours, signaled a strong squall line that swept through the area.
“I just seen the damage,” said James Kriege, captain for the Ferguson Fire Department. “Trees one way, and another way ... it just looked more and more like a tornado.”
Pulaski County was under a tornado warning shortly after 6 a.m. yesterday as the storm moved across the area at a dangerous speed of between 50 and 60 mph. That line produced one confirmed twister, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson, Ky.
Officials with the NWS said Wednesday afternoon that an EF-0 tornado touched down in the Ferguson community at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
An EF-0 tornado packs the weakest punch, according to the Enhanced Fujita scale, which categorizes tornado strength by peak wind speeds and amount of damage caused. Wednesday’s tornado had peak winds estimated at 65 mph, and its path length was estimated at less than half of a mile.
Kriege said he began to see signs that a twister had blown through the area soon after they began surveying damage in the community on Wednesday.
That’s why he decided to contact the NWS, and it turns out, his hunch was right.
“What’s really scary is I live just a block away,” said Kriege, who said a 10-by-10 foot metal dog pen in his yard was moved by the force of Wednesday’s winds.
Fortunately, no one was injured.
According to the preliminary report filed by the NWS, the tornado touched down near the end of the Lake Cumberland Regional Airport runway and took a northeastern path onto the Hyden Lane area — and one home there had at least some roof damage — and onto Ky. 3057.
It was along that route that the twister’s winds brought a large tree down into an outbuilding.
As of Wednesday afternoon, it was unknown exactly where the tornado’s path ended, but downed trees and some structural damage suggests the tornado at least hit the intersection of Ky. 3057 and Murphy Avenue.
Several large trees were downed just northeast of the Ky. 3057-Murphy Avenue intersection on Gover Lane, and one building had some roof damage as well.
Other parts of the county reported downed trees after the strong cold front swept through and heavy rains drenched the area.
“It was mostly wind and trees down,” said Tiger Robinson, public safety officer for Pulaski County. He said trees were reported down in Goochtown, Nancy and along Ky. 192. Workers with the Kentucky Department of Transportation worked to clear downed trees near the intersection of Ky. 192 and Cherry Grove Road Wednesday morning, which halted traffic there for a bit.
Joy Bullock, corporate communications coordinator for South Kentucky RECC, said about 2,300 co-op members in Pulaski, McCreary, Russell and Wayne counties were without power early yesterday. She said power poles were pushed down and tree limbs fell on lines.
No report was available from Kentucky Utilities.
The National Weather Service predicted wind gusts above 60 mph in other areas of the county besides Ferguson.
Applicable is an oft-spoken idiom, “If you don’t like the weather in Kentucky, wait a minute, it will change.” The change from about 48 hours of springlike weather to the bitter cold of winter is happening.
By the time you read this, the temperature will have fallen about 40 degrees, from a high Tuesday in the upper 60s to a low this morning in the upper 20s.
The absence of snow this winter in the Lake Cumberland area may take a turn tonight. A disturbance with a 70 percent chance of snow will follow breezy cold today, but only a skift, if anything, is expected, according to the NWS.
Saturday is Groundhog Day, and the ground in and around Somerset has not been covered with snow so far this winter.
The low temperature tonight is forecast to be in the mid-teens, and the high Friday is expected to be about 24 degrees.
Another weather system will being a mixture of rain and snow Saturday, turning to all snow Saturday night. No significant accumulation is expected.
Sunday will be relatively nice: Sunny with a high of 42.