Multiple tornadoes confirmed in Western Kentucky, major damage reported

Update: The tornado that touched down at 9:18 a.m. Thursday west of Paducah was an EF2, considered a significant tornado with wins of 111 to 135 mph, according to the National Weather Service.  It traveled 16.7 miles and was a maximum width of 300 yards. At least a dozen homes had "major structural damage, including walls blown outward." Dozens of barns, garages and outbuildings were destroyed. Dozens of homes received minor damage.  A second tornado , a moderate EF1 with 86 to 110 mph winds, was confirmed Friday in Union County after a damage survey, the weather service reported. Damage was also being surveyed Friday in Henderson and Carlisle counties.

Multiple tornadoes touched down Thursday in Western Kentucky and high winds caused problems in other parts of the state as a storm system moved through the region.

One person was injured by a tornado that struck Paducah and at least two potentially weather-related injuries were reported in other parts of the state.

A tornado warning was issued for McCracken County at 9:27 a.m. CST by the National Weather Service. They reported a tornado was spotted in the area moving northeast at 55 miles per hour.

At 9:32 a.m. CST Thursday, the National Weather Service’s Paducah office tweeted “9:31 A.M. (Central) TORNADO JUST MISSED OUR OFFICE IN WEST PADUCAH. TAKE SHELTER NOW IF YOU’RE IN PADUCAH!!!!”

State trooper Rob Austin told the Associated Press that it appeared that dozens of homes were damaged in the area.

The tornado that hit Paducah Thursday morning affected about five square miles of Western McCracken County, including a preschool, according to Kentucky State Police.

The tornado struck Paducah’s Mt. Zion Baptist Church, tearing off its roof and filling the pews with debris, according to photos posted on Facebook by Joelle Long.

This Thursday, March 14, 2019 photo shows damage to Mount Zion Church in West Paducah, Ky. The twister left a path in western Kentucky from Lovelaceville through the West Paducah area, according to Keith Todd, a spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. (Dave Thompson/The Paducah Sun via AP) Dave Thompson AP

The church includes a preschool that was in session at the time of the tornado. Forty students were at the preschool at the time of the incident, but no children or instructors were injured, Kentucky State Police said.

At Wilbert Vault Co., a burial vault company across the street from the church, the roof collapsed and debris filled the building.

This Thursday, March 14, 2019 photo shows damage to the Wilbert Vault Co., in West Paducah, Ky. Dave Thompson AP

State police confirmed at 2 p.m. there was one non-life threatening injury due to the Paducah tornado. The West Kentucky Star reported that the man suffered minor injuries when a grain bin blew onto his pickup truck, wrapped around it and caused it to flip on Highway 60.

The American Red Cross will establish shelter to provide assistance to displaced families.

A state of emergency was declared in McCracken County by the Judge Executive’s Office.

Dustin Knight, a storm chaser with SVL Media, said he received a text from a friend in Paducah saying “major damage with debris falling from the sky.”

Photos posted from WPSD Local 6 and the Paducah Sun’s Ellen O’Nan show damage to a Dick’s Sporting Goods sign, trees in roadways, and stop lights swaying from heavy wind.

In Union County, a tornado was caught on video by Evansville news station WFIE’s Evan Gorman. When that tornado was spotted in Morganfield at 10:25 CST, it was moving northeast at 65 miles per hour, according to the weather service. As it continued to travel near Sturgis toward Henderson County, it was moving at 75 miles per hour.

Video from Kirk Greenwell shows the Union County tornado touching down in an open field.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Keith Todd said in a statement that motorists should avoid traveling in western McCracken County and southeastern Ballard County for at least the remainder of Thursday.

Todd said there were reports of pieces of grain bins, barns, homes and other debris in the roadway and some of it can’t be cleared until utility crews arrive to cut power. He said there are additional areas of downed trees and power lines reported in the West Paducah area.

Thursday morning at 10:55 a.m., the weather service issued a wind advisory for most of Central Kentucky, including Lexington. Strong thunderstorms with damaging winds were possible with the storm, along with the potential of tornadoes and hail, the weather service said.

In Lexington Thursday afternoon, a pedestrian was seriously injured by debris from a transformer that fell and caught on fire off West New Circle Road near Russell Cave Road, fire Major Jordan Saas said. While high winds were reported in the area at the time, it was not immediately clear if weather was responsible for the transformer falling.

WKYT Chief Meteorologist Chris Bailey said Thursday afternoon that the Lexington area could expect strong thunderstorms Thursday night with wind gusts of more than 50 miles per hour. Blue Grass Airport received a wind gust of 69 miles per hour at one point Thursday afternoon, Bailey later said on social media.

All after-school activities for Fayette County Public Schools were canceled Thursday as a result of predicted severe weather, the district said.

Some after school activities were also canceled in Boyle County, where there were sustained winds of about 30 miles per hour and wind gusts of 50 miles per hour, said Mike Wilder, director of Boyle County Emergency Management.

The winds uprooted a tree in Jackson Park in Danville. The tree fell on a woman who was walking her dog, Wilder said. The woman was taken to a hospital to be treated for injuries including broken bones, he said.

At one point, as many as 2,300 were without power in Boyle County, Wilder said.