Tribune-Courier General Manager
March is Severe Weather Awareness Month in Kentucky and perhaps nothing provokes awareness more than recalling the devastation of previous storms which have caused property damage, injuries and loss of life.
Since 1896 when unofficial records-keeping began , many recorded tornadoes of F1 or higher force have occurred in Marshall County. The U.S. government did not begin keeping official statis-
tics until 1951, and since then, 15 tornadoes have been recorded, causing seven deaths and 98 injuries.
The first deadly tornado on unofficial record for Marshall County struck March 27, 1890. That storm started about five miles northwest of Benton and moved toward Eddyville. It was recorded as an F4 tornado and resulted in seven deaths.
Just six years later, in May 1896, a tornado left another five people dead. The storm killed Anderson Jones, his wife and three children. That tornado was part of an outbreak of storms that killed 500 people in nine states across the South.
Tom Hiter was in high school on March 4, 1964, when a deadly F4 tornado carrying winds of at least 200 miles per hour wrought havoc along a path through Brewers, Dogtown, Olive and Fairdealing and continued across Kentucky Lake.
Hiter’s family home was lost to the winds that day, along with those of several neighbors.
“Fairdealing almost disappeared that day,” recalled Hiter. “I was in school when it happened. My physics class watched it form and hit the first building, a barn.”
The front page of the Tribune-Democrat on Thursday, March 5, chronicled the damage. According to the account Mrs. Eli Meyers and J.W. Lang perished in the storm. In all 22 more people were treated for injuries.
Residents of the Moors area still have fresh memories of a terror-filled afternoon on Nov. 15, 2005. An F3 tornado swept through the residential and resort area leaving behind a path of destruction that looked like a scene from a movie.
Campers, golf carts, boats and homes were strewn across the landscape for miles.
As fate would have it, the resort areas were not crowded at that time of year. The loss of life could have been much worse if the storm had occurred during peak tourism season as vacationers lined the lake shore in campers.
As it was, the storm moved along a 44-mile path from Graves County, through Marshall County and into Lyon County. One person died in the storm and 10 were injured.
Mike York, a meteorologist with The National Weather Service in Paducah, said western Kentucky has a higher incidence of tornadoes than any other area of the state. He cautions, though, that the lakes are not the factor.
“There are a lot of myths concerning tornadoes and one of them is that the lakes area acts as an attractor,” he said. “So much of what takes place in the formation of a tornado involves atmospheric conditions that take place at the jet stream level and the lakes have little to no effect on it.
“Others believe a body of water acts as a barrier for tornadoes. This also is not true. One perfect example of that is the Moors tornado, which moved right over the lake after it left land.”
York said only about 10 percent of tornadoes are classified as EF3 and EF4 storms. Most common, he said, are EF0 and EF1s, accounting for 75 to 80 percent of all tornadoes.