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WKU meteorology students, White Squirrel Weather staff survey tornado damage

John Gordon, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service in Louisville, briefed WKU meteorology students before a March 2 survey of storm damage in Warren County.

On March 1, a powerful storm system swept across the region, which produced 11 tornado, 590 high wind and 108 severe hail reports. Among the 11 reported tornadoes, one touched down just 10 miles southeast of WKU at 7:24 a.m. and produced a swath of property and tree damage along the 12000 block of Cemetery Road.

“Any severe weather event that produces reports of damages or causalities, the National Weather Service will attempt to arrive at the location of these incidents relatively quick to conduct a forensic survey to determine specific meteorological causes of the given outcomes,” said Dr. Josh Durkee, Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science and Director of White Squirrel Weather.

John Gordon, Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service in Louisville, coordinated a storm damage survey effort with the Warren County Emergency Management office, meteorology colleagues at WKU, and WxOrNotBG on March 2.

“The Meteorology Program at WKU has a fantastic working relationship with the NWS-Louisville office,” Dr. Durkee said. “When I realized the NWS was visiting Bowling Green to conduct field research on a tornado event on the same day I teach my two upper-level meteorology courses, I knew I had to get my students involved. Thankfully, John Gordon was excited to have us on board.”

Dr. Durkee rounded up his 17 meteorology students, along with staff at White Squirrel Weather, and together they were able to successfully spend the day learning how to conduct professional storm surveys, handle emergency management affairs, verification of meteorological forecast and real-time data, communication and ethics.

WKU meteorology major Pierce Larkin of Lawrenceburg said: “Being able to participate with the National Weather Service in this exercise was a valuable learning experience for me. I am happy that our Meteorology Program continues to provide invaluable hands-on learning opportunities, particularly with potential employers.”

To conclude the investigation, based on the observed damages, the NWS determined the storm that struck Warren County on March 1 produced an EF-1 tornado with winds estimated at 110 mph and traveled 3 miles in just 4 minutes with an estimated width of 125 yards.

“With the widespread property loss in mind, fortunately this event unfolded in a sparsely-populated area where no one was seriously injured or killed,” said Jonathan Oglesby, Visual Design and Science Communicator for WKU White Squirrel Weather and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. “Events such as this motivate us to stay proactive in severe weather preparedness and awareness at WKU in the unforeseen circumstance a hazardous event hits much closer to campus where population density and structures pose much greater risk of loss.”

With the tornado on March 1, Warren County is on track for an average of one tornado occurrence inside the county every other year since 2000. Coincidentally, March 1 marked the start of the so-called meteorological spring and consequently, the expected increase in severe weather across the region.

“I think we are all well-aware of the usually warm winter we experienced this season,” Dr. Durkee said. “However, it is too early to tell what this odd seasonality means for the start of the warm season and the overall expectation for severe weather. Regardless, spring is our primary thunderstorm season so stay weather aware and have a severe weather plan of action.”

Contact: Josh Durkee, (270) 745-8777

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