Fact Sheet - Kentucky Tornadoes
Joshua D. Durkee Research Assistant and Glen Conner
State Climatologist Emeritus for Kentucky
 
Tornadoes are the most violent of all weather events and can produce terrible devastation to relatively small areas. More tornadoes occur in the United States of America than anywhere else in the world. In the United States, more tornadoes are produced during the spring and summer seasons, and few occur during the fall and winter. More heat, more moisture, and more instability commonly cause tornadoes to form more often during the late afternoon. However, in Kentucky they have occurred in every month and at all times of the day.

From 1951-1998, Kentucky experienced�485 tornadoes�(grey tone version). This gives an average of approximately 10 per year. Kentucky's peak month for tornado expectancy is April. During these years, 131 tornadoes were recorded in April which makes up 27 percent of�Kentucky's total.

The 485 recorded tornadoes in Kentucky give an av erage of 2.55 tornadoes per 10,000 square miles per year between 1951-1998. Data by�county�(grey tone version) during these 48 years of observations show no report of tornado occurrences in 9 of Kentucky's 120 counties: Carlisle, Floyd, Harlan, Knott, Knox, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, and Wolfe.

In Kentucky, the most tornadoes recorded in one year was 39 in 1997. The most tornadoes recorded in one month for Kentucky were 29 in April of 1974 and 29 in May of 1 995. In April of 1974, 27 out of month's total of 29 tornadoes occurred on April 3rd. This is Kentucky's highest amount of tornadoes ever recorded for one day.

The intensity of a tornado is ranked by wind speeds and probable damage on what is called the Fujita Scale or F-Scale. The F-Scale is ranked from lowest intensity to highest intensity on a scale from F0-F5. From 1951-1998 in Kentucky, there were 105 F0 tornadoes, 189 F1 tornadoes, 114 F2 tornadoes, 45 F3 tornadoes, 19 F4 tornadoes, and 1 F5 tornado. The F-Scale was not available for some tornadoes.

April 3-4, 1974, marks one of the worst tornado outbreaks in United States history. On those days, the United States had a total of 148 tornadoes reported. Out of the 148 tornadoes, 27 touched down in Kentucky on April 3rd. The only F5 tornado ever recorded in Kentucky touched down around 3:30 pm that day, about 5 miles southwest of Hardinsburg. It continued across Breckinridge County into Meade County growing in intensity as it traveled. The F5 struck Brandenburg around 4:10 pm before it crossed the Ohio River into Harrison County Indiana. The Brandenburg tornado is the most destructive tornado ever recorded in Kentucky. The F5 tornado devastated the business district of Brandenburg killing 31, injuring 257, and destroying or severely damaging 300-400 homes. The 27 tornadoes that touched down in Kentucky on April 3rd left 75 deaths, 1264 injuries, and over 110 million dollars in damages. A total of 39 Kentucky counties reported tornado damage from this outbreak. Kentucky and nine other states were declared disaster are as after the tornado outbreak of 1974.