PADUCAH, KY (WOWK) — According to the National Weather Service in Paducah, Kentucky, the tornado that hit parts of Kentucky, including Mayfield, on Friday December 10, has been surveyed and rated an EF4 tornado.
It took several days and extra experts coming in to help survey the damage to reach the preliminary determination that the storm was an EF4. The Enhanced Fujita tornado damage scale runs from EF0 to EF5. This rating currently shows a maximum of 190 mile per hour winds.
More survey work will continue over the coming days and weeks and reports from nearby NWS offices will be placed with this survey to determine whether or not this is the same tornado that tracked through other states. It is believed by many to be the longest path tornado on record in the United States, but the official determination has to be made after more research.
December tornadoes are rare but they do happen. In fact, a swarm of four weaker tornadoes happened in western Kentucky on this date back in 1971.
Another reason that cool season tornadoes can be more deadly is the timing itself. This isn’t a time that people are looking for information about tornadoes according to (Robert) Jeff Trapp, a professor at the University of Illinois.
A tornado outbreak in December is rare but not unprecedented. However, many of the infamous tornado outbreaks have occurred in March-April-May, which in the modern era represent months of high tornado preparedness and awareness. In December-January-February, on the other hand, the public tends not to be as alert to the possibility of tornadoes, therefore making it more challenging for forecasters and emergency managers to successfully communicate relevant weather-warning information and encourage the appropriate evasive action. These cool-season tornadoes are also potentially more impactful because they have a higher tendency to be very fast-moving storms that occur after sunset, while people are at home sleeping – unaware of the impending danger and need to act quickly – as was the case with many of the Dec. 10 tornadoes.University of Illinois atmospheric sciences professor and department head (Robert) Jeff Trapp.
A fuller question and answer page regarding December tornadoes can be found here with Dr. Trapp.
The full extent of injuries and the number of fatalities has been listed as “unknown” for the time being until more search crews have time to look through more damage and officials have time to try to contact those who may simply be ok but unaccounted for so far.