Jackson, KY

Aerial view of NWS Jackson, KY



WFO Jackson is in central Breathitt County, about five miles east of Jackson, at the Julian Carroll Airport.




WFO Jackson provides forecasts and warnings for 33 counties across eastern Kentucky.  Most of the area served by the Jackson office is hilly or mountainous, with elevations ranging from 550 feet in the lower river valleys to 4145 feet atop Big Black Mountain.  Steep terrain and narrow valleys make flash flooding a common occurrence, and river flooding is also a concern. As a result, WFO Jackson has a comprehensive hydrology program, covering 4 major river basins, and numerous forecast points.


WFO Jackson also has a very active Fire Weather program, and works closely with the Kentucky Interagency Coordination Center, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky Division of Forestry, and Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Fire weather planning forecasts are provided year round, with additional decision support services provided during the spring and fall fire seasons.


WFO Jackson has seen an expansion of aviation services through the years. Initially WFO Jackson was responsible for 1 TAF, but by closely working with area aviation interests, our forecast services have expanded, and WFO Jackson now issues TAFS for 3 airports, including London, Jackson, and Somerset.


The NWR program has also expanded since the WFO first opened. WFO Jackson has one of the most extensive networks of NWR transmitters in the country, with 20 transmitter sites providing broadcasts for parts of 3 different states.


The varied topography of eastern Kentucky makes forecasting a challenge year round, and on some mornings temperatures at the WFO atop Sugar Camp Mountain may be 20 degrees warmer than in the nearby valley where Jackson is located. Eastern Kentucky can experience severe thunderstorms any month of the year, and winter storms are also a threat from December into March. The variable weather means that a forecaster needs to be well versed in both severe weather and winter weather warning operations.




At an elevation of 774 feet, the city of Jackson lies on the North Fork of the Kentucky River and historically, as well as presently, has strong ties to the water.  The latest population figures provided by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005, report that 15,957 people live in Breathitt County with approximately 2,500 of those people living within the city limits.  Breathitt County covers a total land area of 495 square miles.  The topography of Breathitt County is characterized by irregular ridges and deep v-shaped valleys.


Jackson is the county seat of Breathitt County. The city of Jackson is home to the Kentucky River Medical Center and Lees College Campus of Hazard Community and Technical College. There is also a branch of Morehead State University located at Jackson.    




The city of Jackson is served directly by Kentucky Highways 15, 30 and 52. A part of Kentucky 15 near Jackson is currently being converted into a 4 lane highway. The Mountain Parkway, a multi-lane highway, is accessible 20 miles northwest of Jackson.  The Hal Rogers Parkway is located 28 miles to the south.  The nearest scheduled commercial airline service is available at the Bluegrass Airport near Lexington, 93 miles northwest of Jackson.  Local airport facilities include the Julian Carroll Airport, 5 miles east of Jackson, and the Eastern Kentucky Regional Airport, 17 miles southeast of Jackson.




Primary and secondary education is provided to Jackson and Breathitt County by the Jackson Independent School system and the Breathitt County School System.  Lees College Campus of Hazard Community and Technical College is a two-year co-educational facility located in Jackson.  Lees also offers several four year degrees from off campus institutions.  In addition, 13 institutions of higher learning are located within 90 miles of Jackson.  Vocational training facilities are available at the Breathitt County Area Vocational Center in Jackson, and the Hazard State Vocational & Technical School in Hazard, 32 miles South of Jackson.




The climate of Jackson is characterized by warm, humid and sometimes hot summers, and cool, sometimes cold, cloudy and frequently damp winters.  Average annual snowfall is around 22 inches, but snowfall amounts vary considerably from year to year.  For example, snowfall for the winter of 1995-1996 was 62.3 inches, but in the winter of 1996-1997 only 9.3 inches fell.  The average annual precipitation is about 49 inches, with averages varying from 3.18 inches in October to 5.16 inches in May.  In January the average low temperature is 26 degrees and the average high is 42. In July the averages are 66 and 84 respectively.  The region is particularly prone to the development of thunderstorm activity in the spring and summer months.




Opportunities abound for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, rock climbing, mountain biking, hunting, fishing, boating, and ATV trail riding. Breathitt and neighboring counties to the southeast are home to the largest wild free ranging elk herd east of Montana. There is an elk viewing station in Breathitt County, and many of the state parks to the east and south of Jackson provide elk viewing tours.


If backpacking or day hiking interests you, then you can visit the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge State Resort Park which are located about 35 miles northwest of Jackson.  The Red River Gorge is part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, and features over 80 natural arches and miles upon miles of hiking opportunities.  In the Clifty Wilderness area of the gorge, the Red River is ranked as a Class II or Class III rapids.  If you’re not up to that class of rapids, you can take your family and friends on a canoe trip in the lower part of the gorge.  Natural Bridge State Park is close to the gorge just outside of the Daniel Boone National Forest.  Many recreational activities are located in and around the park.


Basketball fans generally tend to follow the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  Area baseball fans follow the Cincinnati Reds.  High school sports are popular in the region.  Friday evenings in the fall are spent watching the Breathitt County Bobcats play football.  The Bobcats won the state championship in 1995, 1996 and 2002 and still remain a dominant team in the area.  Douthitt Park in Jackson has basketball courts, a soccer field, softball field, playground, picnic shelters, a park office, canoe livery and walking/jogging track.


Buckhorn, Carr Creek, Dewey, Cave Run, Fishtrap, Paintsville, Fishpond, Martin’s Fork, Laurel River, Mill Creek and Cumberland Lake are just a few of the larger fishing and recreational attractions in the area.   




The supply and selection of accommodating housing in Jackson is typical of other small communities.  While the choice of housing is not extensive, there are almost always several houses on the market in and around Jackson. Depending on the size and age of the house, prices typically range from $60,000 to $250,000. Average rental prices are around $500 for an apartment.  Some of these apartments include utilities in the rent.  Mobile homes are in fairly widespread use and are readily available for purchase or rent. 




In the Commonwealth of Kentucky, there is a 6% sales tax on items other than food and medicine.  The Commonwealth of Kentucky income tax ranges from 2% to 6% of taxable income.  In addition, Breathitt County requires that employees working in the county pay a 1% Earnings Tax.  This tax is not automatically deducted from your salary, and you are required to mail this in to the county tax administrator either monthly, quarterly or annually. 


Breathitt County Map: http://ukcc.uky.edu/maps/ghm1999/breathitt.gif

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