The National Weather Service decided to place a weather station in eastern Kentucky as a result of the tragic flooding of April 2-5, 1977. Classified as a 500-year flood, where over 15 inches of rain fell across several major river basins in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. 22 people lost their lives, and property damage was counted in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In the damage assessment that followed, several major findings underscored the critical need for additional radar coverage through the mountainous areas, improved communication links, and most importantly, qualified people to work with the local population areas to assist in flood planning, disaster preparedness, and better data collection, including rainfall amounts, through the sparsely populated and rugged terrain of the mountains.

Although the National Weather Service issued a flood watch well in advance of the flooding and flash flood warnings were timely with numerous updates, many people who heard the watch, warnings, and updates took little action as they did not envision the magnitude of the flooding, or that they felt that flood control measures would protect their town. For many, actions taken were too little, too late. There were also major failings in the communications links between the NWS and the local population as telephone links, electrical service, and even radio stations went off the air at the height of the disaster. In the affected 4-state area of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, only Virginia was served by a Disaster Preparedness Meteorologist. It was clear that the local population must have educational programs in order to understand and respond when severe weather watches and warnings were issued.

Recognizing that the cornerstone of such an educational program would require an active flash flood focus, with an interested and involved citizenry to minimize the loss of life and property damage, the NWS decided to place a new office in the flash flood prone region of east Kentucky. Due to the centralized location with existing NWS offices and network radars, Breathitt County was selected as the site of the newest NWS office with the facilities to be located at the Jackson/Julian Carroll Airport a few miles outside of Jackson. Construction took place through late 1979 into 1980 and the office was officially commissioned January 1st, 1981.

 

WFO Jackson began construction in late 1979, with the completed building and operations begun in 1981. The facility is located on top of Sugar Camp Mountain and the view from the parking lot has not changed.

 

 

For additional information:
 
History of the National Weather Service

 

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