First tornado in 29 years hits Jessamine County

Published 10:43 am Thursday, April 4, 2024

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Jessamine County business owners and residents in an industrial park off of Park Central Avenue are without power and left to pick up the pieces of the EF1 tornado that touched down Tuesday, April 2. 

Power is still off in the industrial park, and pink fiberglass is sopping wet all over the roads. Telephone poles have been completely unearthed. 

According to Emergency Management Agency Director Johnny Adams, this is Jessamine County’s first tornado since 1995. “We’ve been blessed, we’ve been fortunate, we’ve had heavy winds but nothing like this.” Adams said. 

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In the early morning of April 2, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Louisville announced a thunderstorm warning for central Kentucky in which “anything was possible”- from flooding to hail to tornados. 

At 9 a.m., due to notification from the NWS, Adams put out a tornado watch for the area via the Emergency Management Agency Facebook page. 

A watch encompasses a very large area- typically multiple counties and doesn’t guarantee a tornado will hit land. A tornado warning is when there is undoubtedly one on the way. This time, locals never got a warning. 

Even though Adams knew a tornado was possible, he said he didn’t expect it to “fall right into [their] laps,” and it did. “This thing hit at 9:30. As things blew in, it was basically developed right over top of us.” 

Right as the Fire Department was on U.S. 27, handling a vehicle collision, the tornado developed and started on the other side of U.S. 27, blowing a semi-truck on its side and flying storage containers around. “I had the best of intentions to activate the sirens, but by the time we got ready to set everything off, [the tornado] was here and gone,” Adams said. 

“This just shows the need to prepare when the weather threat is imminent. Lesson learned from this event.” Adams said. The entire central Kentucky area was under tornado watch and thunderstorm warning, and Adams said it’s important to be ready even with a watch notice.

Lee Tire employees said that even though a wall blew off the side of one of their buildings, they probably suffered the least damage in the industrial park. 

Hunter Gardner said the tornado only lasted a few minutes, and by the time he and his colleagues realized it was a tornado, it had already passed through. 

A large blue dumpster hit employee Kasey Jackson’s vehicle after the dumpster had been thrown into the parking lot by the storm. 

Despite the power still being out throughout the industrial park, which greatly limited what employees at Lee’s Tire could do, they still showed up bright and early the following day. 

“This is our job, we need a paycheck. We gotta get out here. [Gardner] just bought a house and has a big mortgage, we gotta do everything we can to stay open and keep going.” Jackson said. 

Now, Jackson, Gardner, and the rest of the Lee Tire team are waiting for their power to come back on. When it does, Gardner said, he knows it’ll be business as usual. But this morning, they had already seen four different customers come in. “We had to tell them we were just hit by a tornado last night,” Jackson said. 

Nicholasville Fire was the lead agency partnered with emergency management, but help also came from Jessamine County Fire and the Nicholasville Police Department (NPD). Even Nicholasville’s Emergency Management Director, Michael Wayne, drove from his vacation in Tennessee the night before the tornado hit because he saw how bad the weather forecast was. 

After the tornado came and went, the industrial park was evacuated thanks to an order from the NPD. “The purpose of the evacuation order was safety. We had a lot of debris, damaged spruce, and metal blowing around, and electric wires were down, which were assumed to be energized. The gas had to be controlled in addition to the water leaks. So once we had everything under control, we stabilized. We couldn’t just release everything yesterday because we had back-to-back-to-back storms coming through yesterday, so we held presence here last night until about 10 p.m., and police presence was out here until midnight,” Adams said.

The morning after the tornado, Adams said that emergency management people would be on the ground on Wednesday, April 3, working to get the power on and finish the damage assessment platform. Business owners are now allowed back into the industrial park and were given safety briefings before being allowed in. 

“We had a disaster and we had to handle that the best way we could, and we’re sympathetic to everyone’s needs that had property destroyed or damaged but we have to keep everyone safe. That is our primary responsibility,” Adams said.