Hurricane Force Winds Sweep Through Kentucky, Leaving Destruction in their Wake

Lexington, Ky.–Hurricane force winds swept across Kentucky on Friday, resulting in widespread power outages, significant damage, and at least five deaths, including one in Lexington. The National Weather Service reported the top wind gust speeds recorded via the state’s mesonet network, with Breckinridge County at 75 mph, Mercer County at 73 mph, and Fayette County at 72.4 mph.

The governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, described the gusts as “very destructive winds” and said emergency management officials were working to restore power and clear downed lines and trees. The sustained winds across much of Kentucky generally sat between 25 and 40 mph as of 4 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service in Louisville, with gusts of up to 70 mph expected.

The powerful storm resulted in confirmed tornadoes in two counties and caused widespread damage across the state. In a Saturday inclement weather press conference, Governor Beshear said the high winds “caused significant damage” and confirmed that at least five people had lost their lives due to the storm.

The storm also set at least one weather record in Kentucky, with surface pressure at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport falling to an all-time record low of 977.1 millibars by about 3 p.m. Friday, according to the National Weather Service. For reference, that’s generally the same level of low pressure that accompanies a Category 2 hurricane.

Central Kentucky’s strong winds were “approaching hurricane force,” said WKYT chief meteorologist Chris Bailey on Twitter. Low air pressure generally lays the groundwork for severe, unstable weather, including heavy rain and gusty winds, experts say.

Friday afternoon, all of Kentucky was under at least a wind advisory, with much of the state observing a high wind warning, a tornado watch, and occasional severe thunderstorm warnings as strong storms pushed across the Bluegrass State.

Blue Grass Airport was temporarily closed for the evening due to roof damage caused by the high winds. Incoming flights were rerouted since around 5:30 p.m. due to the winds, and power outages occurred at the TSA checkpoint before the roof at Concourse A and the rental car garage were damaged. The airport is now back open.

Over 45,000 in Fayette County were still without power Saturday afternoon.

KU reported 45,903 customers in Fayette County without power as of Mar 4, 1:47 PM
KU Outage Map, Mar 4, 1:47 PM

Top photo: A tree toppled over by wind on March 3 in South Lexington. (The Lexington Times)