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Ag Weather Update

Matt Dixon, Meteorologist

UK Ag Weather Center

Updated 12-15-21

Kentucky Coming Together

First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with all those across Kentucky and surrounding states who have suffered losses from this tornado outbreak. There is no doubt that this a heart-wrenching situation. I’m describing this event as “generational,” as we grapple with the impacts of what looks to be one of, if not, the longest recorded path of a tornado in United States history. 

I was able to visit the UK Research and Education Center (UKREC) in Princeton on Saturday. Visual shock is probably the best way to describe my reaction to the devastation. People lost their homes. I saw full-size pickup trucks crumpled up like garbage. I saw a barn picked up and displaced 300 to 400 yards. I included a video from UK Ag Communications below that shows the disturbing before and after images of the UKREC facility. You can see the utter destruction, but most importantly and as Carrie Knott, director of the Princeton research facility, said in the video, no one lost their life! Buildings and homes can be replaced, but people cannot.

As bad as this situation was and still is, there were moments full of hope. The community coming together has been one of the greatest things to watch. While we were surveying the damage to the beef unit on Saturday, a man (I wish I knew his name) pulled up in a red pickup truck with fencing supplies and a cab full of clothes. In another example, I watched the UK Athletics’ Tornado Disaster Relief Telethon on LEX18 last night and as of 8PM, they had raised over three million dollars for tornado relief efforts (picture below). Way to go, UK Athletics! These are just two in a long list of examples showing Kentuckians coming together to help one another. 


I wanted to provide some donation opportunities below. The impacts of this tragedy will be long lasting, and whatever you can do to help will be greatly appreciated by the folks in need. As I remember Coach Calipari saying on the broadcast last night, if you’re not able to give financially, prayers are just as good.

1.      Looking first at agriculture, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service with farming needs. They have information to contact the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, where they will then work with farm organizations to meet the requested needs with donors. If you are looking to donate, you can also contact your local county agent for more information.

2.      The Kentucky Farm Bureau Education Foundation has set up a GoFundMe called the Kentucky Agriculture Relief Fund, where the funds collected will be distributed by a grant process. These funds will be used for supporting area farmers and agribusinesses in those affected areas.

3.      This link directs to the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environments’ article on the event and donation information can be found near the end.

4.      FEMA has made federal funding available for several counties across Kentucky. Those affected can apply for disaster assistance at:

5.      American Red Cross can be contacted for disaster assistance at: 1-800-RED CROSS. You can also donate at:

Damage Surveys

I’ll update you about tornado strength as that information becomes available. Here is what we know. Following a tornadic situation, the National Weather Service sends out meteorologists for a damage survey. In these surveys, the meteorologist determines the intensity of the tornado based on damage indicators, which ranges from residential homes to retail centers to hard or soft wood trees. Based on the degree of damage to a structure, the National Weather Service will assign an EF rating, which corresponds to a peak wind speed that is required to cause such damage. The EF stands for the Enhanced Fujita Scale and categorizes tornadoes based on intensity. The scale ranges from EF0 (weak tornado) to EF5 (violent tornado). Below is a look at the scale, courtesy of the National Weather Service Office in Norman, OK.


The latest tornado damage surveys from Louisville and Paducah are shown below. In this situation, surrounding NWS offices from other states have been called in to help with survey efforts. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a number of situations in which the intensity of the tornado could be rated above EF3. When preliminary findings are of a EF4 strength or higher, the National Weather Service incorporates experts and engineers into the surveying process. As of today,12/15 at 3PM, surveys in multiple locations show AT LEAST EF3 damage. The long track tornado across Western Kentucky is included. They already know that the track was continuous over a 128-mile stretch through the Paducah warning area. Maximum width has been observed at ¾ mile+. Estimated peak winds are between 158 to 206 mph. Once again, the surveys are ongoing; changes to these EF ratings are likely in the days ahead. I’ll have a more thorough look at the overall tornado outbreak in coming weeks.



Highs have peaked in the mid to upper 60s today behind breezy southerly winds. Peak gusts have been in the 20 to 30 mph range across much of the state. Those gusty winds continue into the overnight and tomorrow. We could see gusts in the 30 to 40+ mph range at times. Luckily, the highest winds will stay west/northwest of the state. 

Unfortunately, recovery efforts will be hampered by less than ideal weather conditions over the next several days. Today will likely be the last in our recent stretch of dry weather. A cold front will produce widespread showers across Kentucky tomorrow with some embedded thunderstorms. We are NOT expecting any severe weather, just general thunderstorms. Heavy rain will be a possibility from time to time. This frontal boundary will then fluctuate across the area through Saturday, leading to several rounds of rain in the forecast. Exceptional rainfall is on the table with 1-3+ inches possible over this period (map below), highest along the Ohio River. Just like the last two rounds of rain, this could lead to localized flooding, especially for low-lying areas. Through the first half of the month, the state has averaged 2.47 inches, which is slightly above normal for this time of year. 


Dry conditions return on Sunday and into the early stages of next workweek, but with much cooler air in place. Highs in the 40s/50s and lows in the 20s will be common. Looking farther out, outlooks hint at above normal temperatures winning out between the 20th and 28th, along with near to above normal precipitation in place. 


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