West Liberty Tornado, Category EF-3, wind speed reached from 136mph to 165mph.
Many Kentuckians will likely remember where they were that day, one year ago today. The day 24 people lost their lives across the state in one of the worst tornado outbreaks in Kentucky history.
I didn't live in Kentucky last March. I was in Texas. But my eyes were glued to the live streams, watching as tornado warning after tornado warning was issued for Lexington and the surrounding area, where my now fiance lived. I remember watching the models and storm prediction center outlooks days before, knowing it was going to be a dangerous day, the kind of day where lives were on the line.
In the end, it would be named the worst outbreak in over two decades. Nearly 300 tornado warnings were issued between Friday, March 2nd and the following morning. When it was all said and done, 36 people had lost their lives across five states.
Peopled were forced to search the rubble of what used to be everything they knew, for mementos, family heirlooms, and sometimes even loved ones. The stories that came from that day were heartbreaking.
The video to the right, shows security video as one tornado passed by a home in Morgan County. That's where an EF-3 tornado touched down.
To put it in perspective, the tornado that went through West Liberty was at times a mile wide and was on the ground for 86 miles, for a total of 90 minutes. It was the longest tracked tornado of 2012 and claimed six lives.
The statistics for Kentucky are staggering:
*18 tornadoes confirmed
*24 lives lost in Kentucky
*Over 200 people injured
*A price tag of over $150 million.
To make matters worse, just two days after the outbreak, people who were cleaning up had to deal with nearly half a foot of snow (read more). On Tuesday, March 6th, President Obama declared Kentucky a disaster area, allowing federal funds to help those devastated by the severe storms.
Since the storms, the recovery process has begun. Over the past year businesses, schools, restaurants, and many other buildings have reopened, and people hit hard by the storms keep pushing forward.
West Liberty resident Amy Baldwin described the recovery process to WKYT five months after the outbreak.
"It's a slow go at times but any signs of progress are wonderful. Anything that can get opened back up, it makes you feel a little bit better. I would say within a year you'll be able to tell a big difference. Some of these may not be back for 2-3 years," adds Baldwin.
I wasn't here the day those tornadoes touched down. I can't say I know what it's like. The impressions I have center around the fear I felt for my fiancee, knowing what was coming, only to later hear him give first hand accounts of the damage he was witnessing as a reporter with WKYT.
This week in the newsroom it wasn't uncommon to hear conversations about that day break out among producers, reporters, directors, really anyone who was working at the time. Every one of them remembers where they were and what they were doing when all hell broke loose. Each one describes the same general feeling of dread lingering through the day, hoping beyond hope the forecasters had got it wrong.
Unfortunately, that wasn't how it went down. But if there is one thing to take away from this historic outbreak, it is the fact that people really are resilient.
One year later, the recovery process is ongoing, but the important thing is that it is still going. Despite the devastation, the people of West Liberty, Salyersville, East Bernstadt, and many other cities across the state continue to move forward.
I wasn't here the day those tornadoes touched down. But since I've been here, I've heard the stories of comeback and restoration. Of people giving fully of themselves to help others in need.
And those are the stories that should never be forgotten.
Surveillance system consisting of seven cameras caught the tornadoes fury from several different angles. Damaged, their house stood strong. But the tornado destroyed their workshop (caught on camera) and another camera shows the roof of their neighbors home peel off like a sardine can.
On March 2, 2012 the city of West Liberty, Kentucky was devastated by an EF-3 tornado. - EastKYBroadcasting
"Both now and for always, I intend to hold fast to my belief in the hidden strength of the human spirit."
- Andrei Sakharov
Storm Reports And Other Tools From March 2012 Outbreak
Doppler Radar From West Liberty and Salyersville Tornadoes.
More From NWS Jackson, Ky.
More From NWS Louisville, Ky.