22 December 2004
central Kentucky and southern Indiana
Historic Winter Storm

A historic and major winter storm affected much of the Ohio Valley from the 22nd into the 23rd of December 2004. Two bursts of heavy snow, separated by a few hours, brought over two feet of snow across several counties north of the Ohio River in southern Indiana. Interstates 64 and 65 across southern Indiana were closed for a number of hours during this storm. Snow totals of 30 inches or more were measured across portions of Washington, Jefferson, and Scott counties. Further south, an amazing 6 inches of sleet fell in one location across Henry County. Significant sleet accumulations also fell on the Louisville metro area. Thundersnow and thundersleet were observed during this event, with snowfall rates approaching 4 inches per hour in some southern Indiana locations. Across central Kentucky, freezing rain brought up to an inch and a half of ice across an area from Bowling Green through Nelson County. Ice accumulations caused considerable tree and some structural roof damage in Hardin and Nelson counties.

You can view a 3 hour duration radar loop during the evening of 22 December...pretty much the peak of the event. Click here to view...however note that the file is 3 MB large any may take a few moments to download over slower Internet connections. You can see the persistent banding which lead to large snow and sleet totals. A couple strikes of cloud to ground lightning were also seen, indicating the thundersleet or thundersnow.

A large scale 500 MB trough over much of North America provided an environment favorable to ascent over the Ohio River Valley. This analysis was valid at 00 UTC on 23 December 2004 (7 PM EST 22 December).

A relatively weak surface low was located over the Gulf Coast states, allowing moist air to flow northward into the Ohio Valley. This clearly shows you that it does not take a deep cyclone to create significant winter storms in this part of the country. This analysis was also valid at 00 UTC on 23 December 2004 (7 PM EST 22 December).

This map shows an approximate analysis of snow and/or ice accumulations, in inches, across the NWS Louisville area of responsibility.

A surface temperature analysis early Christmas morning (a couple days after the winter storm). The deepest snowpack is well correlated with the coldest temperatures that morning. It took nearly a week after the snowstorm for the deepest snows to melt completely.

 

Damaged Elizabethtown airport hanger, due to heavy ice accumulations during 22-23 December 2004 winter storm. Steve Townsend, Elizabethtown
Elizabethtown Firefighters remove ice from the roof of a car dealership that was threatening collapse on December 23, 2004. Steve Townsend, Elizabethtown
Snow covering a large pickup truck after the historic 22 December 2004 winter storm. Angela Crecelius, Milltown, Indiana
Snow measuring stick showing two feet of snowfall after the December 2004 winter storm. Angela Crecelius, Milltown, Indiana
Snow completely covering a small car after the December 2004 winter storm. Angela Crecelius, Milltown, Indiana
A collapsed gas station roof in Elizabethtown due to ice accumulations (Dec. 2004) Tom Williams, Elizabethtown
Inside the collapsed hanger at the Elizabethtown Airport after the December 2004 winter storm. Tom Williams, Elizabethtown
Snow and ice covered lake after the December 2004 winter storm. Judy Webber, Louisville
This train made it up Duncan hill.Here is a train at 10:00AM at New Albany just as the snow started getting heavy December 2004. This train made it up Duncan Hill. Bob Pickering

Here is a county-by-county listing of snow, sleet, and ice totals from the event:

THE FOLLOWING ARE COUNTY-BY-COUNTY *MAXIMUM* PRECIPITATION TOTALS 
GATHERED FROM LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES, STORM SPOTTERS,
COOPERATIVE OBSERVERS, AND OFFICIAL REPORTING STATIONS.
.SOUTHERN INDIANA...
COUNTY               SNOWFALL               COMMENTS
------------------------------------------------------------------
DUBOIS 20 INCHES 4 FOOT DRIFTS
PERRY 20 INCHES
ORANGE 30 INCHES EST BY TRAINED SPOTTER
CRAWFORD 23 INCHES 5 FOOT DRIFTS
HARRISON 20 INCHES
WASHINGTON 32 INCHES 5 FOOT DRIFTS
FLOYD 14 INCHES
CLARK 15 INCHES
SCOTT 29 INCHES

JEFFERSON 17 INCHES EASTERN PART OF THE COUNTY
JEFFERSON 30 INCHES FAR WESTERN PART OF COUNTY
.NORTH CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
COUNTY               ACCUMULATIONS          COMMENTS 
-----------------------------------------------------------------
HANCOCK 17-19 INCHES 5 FOOT DRIFTS
BRECKINRIDGE 15+ INCHES
MEADE 10+ INCHES
BULLITT 4-6 INCHES
SPENCER 4-5 INCHES
JEFFERSON 9 INCHES OFFICIAL FROM SDF (LOU ITNL)
OLDHAM 9 INCHES
HARDIN 3-4 INCHES SLEET WITH 1 INCH OF ICE
NELSON 1 INCH OF ICE WITH 2 INCHES OF SNOW/SLEET ON TOP
WASHINGTON 1/4 TO 1/2 INCH ICE WITH A LITTLE SNOW
TRIMBLE 12 INCHES 2 FOOT DRIFTS
SHELBY 5.5 INCHES INCLUDES 3.5 INCHES SLEET
HENRY 9 INCHES INCLUDES 6 INCHES SLEET
.SOUTH CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
COUNTY               ACCUMULATIONS          COMMENTS 
------------------------------------------------------------------
OHIO 8 INCHES MORE IN THE NORTHERN PART
OF THE COUNTY
BUTLER 3-4 INCHES OF A SLEET/SNOW MIXTURE
GRAYSON 6 INCHES OF SLEET AND SNOW
CUMBERLAND 2/10 INCH OF ICE
.EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
COUNTY               ACCUMULATIONS          COMMENTS 
------------------------------------------------------------------
FRANKLIN 1/4 TO 1/2 INCH ICE, 1 INCH SLEET AND SNOW
WOODFORD 1/4 INCH ICE
SCOTT 1/2+ INCH ICE, WITH SOME SLEET AND SNOW
FAYETTE 1/4 INCH ICE
JESSAMINE 1/4 INCH ICE
GARRARD 1/4 INCH ICE
MADISON 1/4 INCH ICE NEAR WESTERN BORDER, LOWER AMOUNTS
ELSEWHERE
CLARK LIGHT GLAZE OF ICE
BOURBON 1/4 INCH ICE
HARRISON 1/2+ INCH ICE
NICHOLAS LIGHT GLAZE OF ICE
MERCER 1/2+ INCH ICE

Here is a listing of the low temperatures observed the morning of December 25th:

...ACROSS SOUTH CENTRAL INDIANA...
LEAVENWORTH     MINUS  7
SCOTTSBURG MINUS 19
TELL CITY PLUS 5
HUNTINGBURG MINUS 13

PATOKA LAKE MINUS 7
...ACROSS NORTH CENTRAL...SOUTH CENTRAL AND EAST CENTRAL KENTUCKY...
LOUISVILLE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE          0
LOUISVILLE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT PLUS 2
LOUISVILLE BOWMAN FIELD PLUS 2
FRANKFORT PLUS 3
BOWLING GREEN PLUS 9
COVINGTON MINUS 2
WOODBURY PLUS 4
ROCHESTER FERRY MINUS 3
HERRINGTON LAKE PLUS 11
MARROWBONE PLUS 9
BARREN RIVER LAKE PLUS 10
GREEN RIVER LAKE PLUS 14
NOLIN RIVER LAKE PLUS 4
ROUGH RIVER LAKE MINUS 4
FORT KNOX MINUS 2
LEXINGTON PLUS 8

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