Banner for Violent Tornadoes in Kentucky

 

Information from before 1950 is taken from Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991 and its supplement Significant Tornadoes Update 1992-1995, both by Thomas P Grazulis.  After 1950 data are taken from official National Weather Service sources with supplementation from Grazulis' work.

Scroll down through the tornadoes listed on this page, or click on a date in the following table to go directly to that entry.

March 2, 1878

January 12, 1890

March 27, 1890

March 23, 1917

May 27, 1917

March 18, 1925

March 14, 1933

May 9, 1933

March 24, 1937

March 16, 1942

May 2, 1948

March 4, 1964

April 3, 1968

April 23, 1968

April 27, 1971

April 3, 1974

November 22, 1992

May 28, 1996

November 15, 2005

 March 2, 2012

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 2, 1878 Casey 8 2:30pm
Homes were swept away in the Rich Hill Knob and Mount Olive areas.  Seven people in one family were killed near Rich Hill Knob.
 

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
January 12, 1890 Hickman 11 5:00pm
This tornado touched down northeast of New Madrid, Missouri and moved northeast along the Mississippi River, crossing the river three times.  Clinton was particularly hard hit, where 55 homes were destroyed.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 27, 1890 McCracken, Livingston, Crittenden, Webster, McLean, Daviess 21 5:15pm
Touchdown occurred west of Paducah.  The tornado crossed the Ohio River, striking Metropolis, Illinois, and then crossed the river again as it entered Livingston County.  A fatality occurred at the first farm the tornado hit after crossing the river west of Burna.  The tornado continued to the northeast, killing at least 6 people in Crittenden County including five people in one home in Sheridan.  The tornado increased to F4 strength between Blackford and Dixon in western Webster County where dozens of farms were leveled and several people killed.  At Sebree trees were blown onto a railroad track, causing a train wreck and 3 fatalities.  After crossing extreme northwestern McLean County, the storm moved into Daviess County where five members of one family were killed east of Delaware.  After nearly 100 miles of destruction, the tornado was headed straight for the heart of Owensboro, but dissipated just nine miles southwest of town.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 27, 1890 Marshall, Livingston, Lyon 7 6:00pm
The tornado began five miles southwest of Benton and moved northeast to near Eddyville.  Grand Rivers was hardest hit where half the town was damaged and two people were killed.  Additional fatalities took place near Kuttawa and Eddyville, as well as earlier along the track in Marshall County.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 27, 1890 Jefferson 76 7:57pm
One of the most devastating tornadoes to ever strike Kentucky.  This historic event may have actually started in Harrison County IN, but is traditionally plotted from just west of Shively, Kentucky.  The tornado moved north-northeast and northeast through the Parkland neighborhood (Twenty-eighth and Dumesnil), leveling a few homes at F4 intensity.    When the tornado entered the city of Louisville it was 200 yards wide and grew to 500 yards wide as it plowed through the west side of the central business district.  Multi-story downtown buildings were hit by the tornado and subsequently collapsed.  At least 44 deaths occurred at the Falls City Hall (1124 West Market Street).  The building collapsed with 200 people inside; 75 at a lodge meeting on the upper floor and 125 children with their mothers taking dancing lessons on the lower floor.  This was one of the highest tornado death totals in a single building ever recorded in the United States.  Damage totaled $2.5 million (1890 dollars) in Jefferson County, along with 20 injuries.  The tornado then crossed the Ohio River into Jeffersonville, Indiana, and crossed the river again, coming back into Louisville dissipating near the present-day intersection of Zorn Avenue and River Road after badly damaging the city water tower.  5 churches, 7 railroad depots, 2 public halls, 3 schools, 10 tobacco warehouses, 32 manufacturing plants, and 532 dwellings were destroyed by the tornado.  Union Station was crushed as well.  The next morning the main Louisville newspaper called the storm "the whirling tiger of the air."  The city organized crews of 60 men each who worked day and night searching the wreckage for bodies. Sightseers started arriving on the 28th, and the National Guard was called in to control the crowds. The city refused any outside aid. The Board of Trade organized a relief committee to oversee the recovery, and the board also authorized $15,000 in pensions to widows and orphans of the storm. 

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 27, 1890 Ohio, Grayson, Breckinridge, Hardin 7 8:00pm
Moved east-northeast from seven miles northwest of Hartford.  Many miles of forest were leveled, and small farm communities were wiped out.  Homes were said to have "vanished" near Sulphur Springs (where two people were killed) and near Falls of Rough (where three people were killed).  The last damage was near Rineyville, where two people were killed in one home.
 
 
Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 23, 1917 Jefferson 46 3:08pm
All fatalities and most damage occurred in and around New Albany, Indiana.  In Kentucky, the tornado crossed the river at Harrods Creek and lifted soon thereafter.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
May 27, 1917 Fulton, Hickman, Graves 67 4:00pm
This tornado began in the northwest corner of Tennessee and quickly moved into Kentucky.  42 people lost their lives in Fulton County, half of which were in the Bondurant area along KY 1282.  The southeast side of Clinton was also hard hit, with 17 more fatalities there.  In Graves County another 5 people died near Dublin.
 

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 18, 1925 Allen, Barren, Monroe, Metcalfe 39 5:00pm
From one of the worst tornado outbreaks ever to strike central Kentucky.  This tornado began north of Gallatin, Tennessee, and crossed into Kentucky, striking Mt. Union (near the present-day intersection of KY 1421 and Napier Road) and then Holland, killing four.  At Beaumont it killed eight more, including five in one family.  Over 150 homes were damaged or destroyed.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 18, 1925 Jefferson 4 5:15pm
Moved to the east-northeast from Mauckport, Indiana to just south of Louisville.  Up to a mile wide, this intense tornado swept away entire farms as it passed one mile north of Laconia and two miles south of Elizabeth.  Furniture from Indiana was later found in yards in Pleasure Ridge Park, KY.  The four deaths were in two separate Indiana farm homes.  In Kentucky, Jefferson County locations that were struck by the tornado or its parent thunderstorm included Orell, Greenwood Station, Kerrick Station, Blanton Station, Saint Helens, South Park, Iroquois Park, and Senning's Park.  The worst damage was on Eightheenth Street Road (today's Dixie Highway) from Kerrick Station to Greenwood Road (the Pleasure Ridge Park/Dixie Manor Shopping Center area today).  Three people were killed there.  Nothing was left standing from the river to Blanton Station in a swath two blocks wide.  The twister crossed Cane Run Road and demolished a home and Greenwood Elementary School on Greenwood Road at Waller Lane.  Damage was severe at Saint Helens, with one house completely removed except for one interior room. Trees and power lines were torn down along Eighteenth Street Road from Kerrick Station to Greenwood Road...a distance of about a mile.  Garages were destroyed in Senning's Park (site of Louisville's zoo at the time, located across New Cut Road from the Iroquois Amphitheater).  Fifty large trees were uprooted in Iroquois Park, and smaller trees were witnessed sailing through the air.  Power poles were torn down along New Cut Road.  There was minor damage along Inverness Avenue northeast of Iroquois Park.  A "queer greenish light" was reported before the storm hit.  Hail up to the size of hens' eggs fell with the storm from Parkland to Crescent Hill.  The day after the storm the head of the Louisville weather service office, J. L. Kendall, surveyed the damage.  He noted that the width of the tornado was 100 yards where it crossed Eighteenth Street Road, and widened to 500 yards as it entered Iroquois Park.  Timber between the river and Eighteenth Street Road along Greenwood Road was observed to have been felled pointing to a common center.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 14, 1933 Bell 12 5:50pm
All fatalities and most destruction were in Tennessee.  In Kentucky the tornado damaged buildings at Southeast Kentucky Community College.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
May 9, 1933 Monroe, Cumberland, Adair, Russell 36 8:30pm
This historic event began around 8pm when there was 30 minutes of rain and hail in Tompkinsville, followed by five minutes of absolute calm.  The calm was shattered when a tornado touched down just southwest of town and moved northeast, directly into southern sections the city (the "Negro section," as newspapers called it at the time).  The path of utter destruction, in which everything was flattened, was a quarter mile wide.  The damaged residences of O. C. Landrum and Oscar Sims marked the edges of the devastation. Between them was a treeless and fenceless waste, with scattered remnants of homes and uprooted trees.  A heavy rain, which fell continuously from 1 o'clock until 6 the following morning, made roads almost impassable and handicapped the work of rehabilitation.  Only three homes that were affected by the funnel were able to be salvaged.  World War I veterans described the devastation and suffering as worse than what they witnessed during the Great War.  The twisting nature of the winds was clearly revealed when the bodies of the Tyree family were found 75 yards south of their home site, and the bodies of the Redeford family were discovered 100 yards north of the spot where their home had stood. The Tyrees lived on the southern edge of the storm area, while the Redefords lived near the northern edge.  The body of the Rev. Redeford's wife was carried 150 yards to a pond on the land belonging to L. P. Hagan. The corpse of the husband was found entangled in a barbed wire fence, having been blown about one hundred yards.  Sixteen people in Tompkinsville lost their lives that evening, with another 2 deaths just northeast of town in Sewell.  Fifty citizens were injured in Monroe County.  After Tompkinsville, the tornado continued to the northeast, crossing Cumberland County (2 people injured) and clipping the southeast corner of Adair County (2 people killed in the Cundiff area).  The tornado grew into a mile-wide monster as it plowed down at least 100 homes in Russell County.  The edge of the tornado missed downtown Russell Springs by only half a mile.  The tornado spent its last fury in the Happy Acre area, causing damage along Goose Creek, near Friendship Church, and on the southern end of Bethany Ridge where chickens were stripped of their feathers.  The tornado lifted at the Casey County line.  Fatality counts for Russell County vary from 14 to 20 depending on the source.  At least 14 were killed on the southeast edge of Russell Springs.  Up to 100 people may have been injured in Russell County.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 24, 1937 Fayette, Clark 5 5:50pm
This major tornado touched down in Fayette County between Athens and Boone Creek, probably between Gentry Road and Athens-Boonesboro Road.  Only one structure was destroyed in Fayette County, which was a barn on the Scott Farm when the tornado was about 200 yards wide and less than a minute old.  The tornado grew in strength very rapidly, and after traveling only about a mile it crossed Boone Creek and completely swept away a house on the Clark County side of the creek.  A four-year-old girl in the house was blown 200 yards and survived with a broken leg.  The storm continued to the northeast through Becknerville (where the funnel was 400 yards wide), with its sights set on Winchester.  The storm roared across Two Mile Pike and into the southern and eastern sections of the city.  The worst of the storm hit a section variously called, among different sources, "the Patio," "Patio Pike," and "Patio Station," which is believed to be in the vicinity of the intersection of modern-day Patio Street and Hamilton Street along the railroad tracks.  Here a 9-year-old boy was partially scalped and suffered a fractured skull.  One hundred buildings were leveled and parts of houses were found half a mile away.  Only three houses remained standing on the far east side of Winchester.  A witness on a high spot on East Broadway witnessed the tornado decimate the Patio/Muddy Creek Pike area around 6pm.  The tornado was a "funnel-shaped spiral, light gray at the top and black at the bottom."   The tornado continued northeast, crossing Irving Road and Ironworks Road, finally dissipating five miles east of Winchester.  It was noted in the local press that the tornado never left the ground along its 15 mile path, and made a "clean sweep" of the earth.  It was called the worst storm in the history of Clark County, and probably still is (rivaled only by the April 3, 1974 tornado).  Though the tornado missed downtown Winchester, the city was pummeled by hail up to 4" in diameter (grapefruit sized) that damaged roofs, ripped car tops, and covered the ground like snow.  The hailstones had "long icicles" on them.  Click here for a map showing the approximate path of the tornado through Winchester.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 16, 1942 Grayson, Hardin 9 6:15pm
Moved east-northeast from north of Caneyville to near Summit.  People died in seven different homes north of Caneyville, Millwood, Leitchfield, Clarkson, and Summit.  About twenty homes were destroyed, and some were swept completely away.  Two of the deaths were in Hardin County.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
May 2, 1948 Clinton, Wayne 5 7:00pm
This tornado touched down near Alpha and immediately leveled homes and took three lives before quickly moving into Wayne County.  Homes were leveled and two people killed near Sumter.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 4, 1964 Calloway, Marshall 3 11:30am
The tornado began three miles west of Kirksey and moved to north of Hardin, near Fairdealing, and ended at Kentucky Lake.  A couple dozen homes were destroyed, at least five of which at F4 intensity.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1968 Calloway, Marshall, Trigg, Caldwell, Christian 2 11:30pm
Touchdown occurred in the northeast corner of Calloway County and moved northeast through Alamo Heights, two miles east of Dexter, near Aurora, and near Unity.  The storm crossed both Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.  The worst damage was in Calloway and Marshall counties were about fifty homes were destroyed.  Trigg County suffered losses to thirty farms.  Pennyrile State Forest was devastated with thousands of trees snapped or uprooted and damage to the lodge.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 23, 1968 Pendleton, Bracken, Mason 6 1:45pm
This intense multiple vortex tornado started its 70 mile long path two miles southwest of Falmouth.  Damage occurred in Bracken County near Berlin, Bladeston, and Chatham; and in Mason County near Dover.  Most of the deaths were on the southeast side of Falmouth where 380 houses were damaged and 180 destroyed.  At Dover 115 of the community's 127 houses were badly damaged.  The storm then left Kentucky as it crossed the Ohio River.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 23, 1968 Greenup 7 3:55pm
This tornado began five miles southwest of Portsmouth and damaged homes at F3 level in Greenup County.  The funnel then crossed the Ohio River and ended up having a 42 mile long path.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 27, 1971 Green, Adair 6 8:30pm
Moved east-southeast from Bramlett, passing three miles northeast of Columbia, to Vester and Christine.  Six people were killed when the tornado demolished a number of homes in the Mount Pleasant Church area on KY 551.  The church itself was leveled.  A total of 51 homes, 33 barns, three churches, four trailers, and 100 other buildings were destroyed, and fifty more homes had major damage.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 27, 1971 Russell, Pulaski 2 9:53pm
Moved east from east of Russell Springs, to Salem, and to Faubush.  At Gosser Ridge two people were killed on a farm as most of the buildings were swept away.  Along the path, 35 homes, four trailers, 60 barns, and 79 other buildings were destroyed.  There was major damage to 105 more homes.  The Salem School was damaged.  At one point, there were two distinct paths, as two funnels moved parallel to one another.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Breckinridge, Meade 31  3:25pm 
Kentucky's only F5 tornado.  Touching down five miles southwest of Hardinsburg, Breckinridge County, the tornado passed along the northern edge of that town, with F3 damage to homes.  Thirteen people were injured and 35 homes were destroyed as the funnel moved to the northeast across Breckinridge County and into Meade County.  The tornado gradually enlarged and intensified as it approached Brandenburg.  The funnel devastated that town and crossed the Ohio River into Harrison County, Indiana.  At Brandenburg 128 homes were completely destroyed, many of them leveled and swept away.  Thirty businesses were destroyed and damage totaled over ten million dollars.  There were 28 deaths in the Brandenburg area.  The F4 damage occurred from north of Irvington, into Indiana.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Grayson 0 4:00pm
Moved east-northeast from Tanyard to south of Caneyville, passing north of Leitchfield and possibly ending near Big Clifty.  The F4 rating is based on a single leveled home south of Caneyville.  Also, different sources give different end points for this tornado, ranging from central Grayson County to northern Hardin County.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Boone 3 4:10pm
This tornado touched down near Rising Sun, Indiana, crossed northern Boone County, and proceeded into the western Cincinnati metropolitan area.  All deaths and most damage were in Ohio.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Jefferson, Oldham 2 4:37pm
Moved northeast from just west of the Kentucky State Fairgrounds in Louisville.  Dozens of buildings and hundreds of trees were destroyed in and near Louisville.  About a dozen expensive homes were destroyed in affluent suburbs of northeast Louisville, especially in Northfield.  About 425 homes were destroyed in Jefferson County, and 25 were damaged in Oldham County.  Losses on one Oldham County farm amounted to $200,000.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Hardin, Bullitt, Nelson, Spencer 3 4:45pm
Moved northeast from northwest of Elizabethtown, destroying businesses as it passed two miles north of the city along US 31W.  Two people were killed in this area.  One person was killed as 15 homes were destroyed near Cox's Creek, Nelson County.  The funnel lifted two miles north of Fairfield.  Nelson County lost 52 homes and about 100 barns.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Green, Taylor 0 5:40pm
Moved northeast from south of Greensburg to Mannsville, destroying a large part of that town.  About 50 homes and 60 barns were destroyed, and 40 of those were at Mannsville, with seven of them leveled to the ground.  Burdick, Meadow Creek, and White Ridge were also hit.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Anderson, Franklin, Scott 4 5:50pm
Moved northeast near Alton where 12 homes were destroyed, and passed along the south and southeast edge of Frankfort where homes were leveled and four people were killed at Jett.  About 120 homes were damaged or destroyed near Frankfort, as were businesses and factories.  The funnel passed near Stamping Ground and lifted near Sadieville.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Cumberland, Clinton, Wayne 8 6:40pm
Moved northeast from two miles south of Kettle, to Ida, eight miles northwest of Albany, to 76-Falls, to Piney Woods, and finally to Mill Springs.  Eight people were killed in five different small Clinton County communities as 50 homes were damaged or destroyed.  This was likely a multiple vortex tornado.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Garrard, Clark, Madison, Montgomery 7 7:20pm
Moved northeast from near Hackley and Cottonburg, passing just north of Richmond, and lifting east of Mount Sterling.  Thirty homes were destroyed, with F4 damage and deaths in southwest Madison County, mostly near Richmond.  About 100 people were left homeless in Clark County.  Some sources do not take this tornado into Montgomery County.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Wayne 5 7:30pm
This tornado spun up in Pickett County, Tennessee, and entered Kentucky about 15 miles south of Monticello.  The tornado tore through the forests of southern Wayne County before lifting west of Mount Pisgah.  All deaths and most damage were in Tennessee.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
April 3, 1974 Wayne, McCreary 0 9:30pm
Touching down near Mount Pisgah, the tornado destroyed homes and leveled ten million board feet of timber in Boone National Forest.  The funnel lifted north of Greenwood.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
November 22, 1992 Carroll, Gallatin, Boone 1 4:52pm
Touched down one and a half miles west of Worthville, lifted east of Rabbit Hash after crossing the Ohio River twice.  F4 status was briefly attained in Carroll County where the tornado killed one person.  Debris was found five miles away.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
May 28, 1996 Jefferson, Bullitt, Spencer 0 5:40pm
This tornado touched down in Memorial Jefferson Forest and moved to the east-southeast into northern Bullitt County.  The storm struck Holsclaw Hill Road, Top Hill Road, Interstate 65 at Brooks, Pioneer Village, Hillview, the Northfield subdivision in Mount Washington, KY 55, a mile and a half south of Taylorsville, near Taylorsville Lake Dam, finally lifting just east of Little Mount. 

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
November 15, 2005 Hopkins 0 3:27pm
This multiple vortex tornado narrowly missed Madisonville when it moved from one and a half miles southwest of Earlington to seven miles east of Hanson.  Earlington suffered the brunt of the storm when 151 buildings were destroyed there.

 

Date Kentucky Counties Fatalities Time
March 2, 2012 Trimble 11 2:50pm
All deaths and most damage in Indiana.  F2 damage in Kentucky.  The tornado damaged a home on Rodgers Road, overturned two barns, and uprooted and/or twisted several trees.  At the same time a second vortex formed immediately adjacent to the first vortex and destroyed a barn on Rodgers Road and extensively damaged another.  This vortex damaged a lot of rugged forested area before intersecting with the path of the first vortex near the confluence of KY 625 and Joyce Mills Road.  Three mobile homes near the intersection were destroyed along with tree damage and downed power lines and poles.  No evidence of further damage was observed until Rawlett Lane, where some trees were snapped and uprooted.  There could have been damage in between but the survey team was unable to access this area.  The tornado then struck two homes and a mobile home on New Hope Ridge Road (KY 2870) about 1.5 miles west of US 421.  The tornado lifted near this location.

 

Total number of F4/EF4/F5/EF5 tornadoes:  35
Total number of fatalities:  446 (some fatalities in adjacent states)


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