Anniversary of the March 2nd tornado outbreak

Eight years ago
Posted: 4:10 PM, Mar 02, 2020
Updated: 2020-03-03 08:05:45-05

On March 2nd, 2012, 18 tornadoes touched down in Kentucky ranging from EF-0 through EF 4. Ten other states recorded touchdowns that day during a particularly violent storm pattern that swept through the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys. The storm event that produced the outbreak had an unusual amount of instability formed from a combination of high wind shear and temperatures that exceeded 80 degrees. In addition to the tornadoes that were formed, large hail and damaging wind gusts also cause damage across the region.


In Kentucky, 26 fatalities and over 200 injuries were the result of the outbreak, especially with the long-tracked EF-3 tornado that hit Menifee and Morgan counties and devastated the city of West Liberty.

Below are the summaries of the tornadoes that affected our forecast area:

West Liberty Tornado
Rating: EF-3
Estimated Peak Wind: 140 mph
Fatalities: 8
Duration (in Kentucky): 39 minutes
Path length: 86 miles
Max Path width: 1 mile

West Liberty Cell Radar
West Liberty Tornado cell on radar (Courtesy NWS Jackson, KY)
West Liberty Path.jpg
Path of the West Liberty Tornado (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)

Touchdown with the West Liberty tornado occurred in Menifee county, southwest of Mariba at 5:39 PM. 19 minutes later, the town of West Liberty was struck and received extensive damage. The tornado continued east through the remainder of Morgan county with a maximum path width of one mile. The tornado then moved into Western Lawrence county before splitting the north and south line of Johnson and Lawrence before moving solely into Lawrence county around 6:18 PM. The tornado weakened a bit and left damage consistent with an EF-1 as it cross through northern Johnson County. It then continued through Lawrence, jumping the Tug fork and continuing through Wayne and Lincoln counties, West Virginia.

Damage Photos:

Menifee Damage
Damage to a structure in Menifee County along Hwy 746 (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Damage in Menifee County along Opossum Hollow Road (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Aerial view of West Liberty, KY (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Aerial View of West Liberty, KY damage (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Damage in downtown West Liberty, KY (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)

Salyersville Tornado
Rating: EF-3
Estimated Peak Wind: 160 mph
Fatalities: 2
Duration (in Kentucky): 48 minutes
Path length: 49 miles
Max Path width: ¾ mile

Salyersville Tornado Path on Radar (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Magoffin County Tor.jpg

The long-tracked Salyersville tornado touched down in southeast Wolfe county before moving through Magoffin, Johnson, and Martin counties. It eventually hopped the Tug Fork into West Virginia, lifting one mile later. The touchdown site in Wolfe County was just southeast of the Burkhart community and displayed damage consistent with an EF-1. However, as the tornado moved through Magoffin and Johnson counties it had strengthened to EF-3 and caused major damage in Salyersville. Maximum wind speeds of 160 mph were likely experienced in Johnson county before the tornado weakened to EF-2 strength when crossing into Martin County. The tornado reached the Tug Fork around 7:38 PM.

Aerial view of damage in Salyersville, KY (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)

Laurel County Tornado
Rating: EF-2
Estimated Peak Wind: 125 mph
Fatalities: 6
Duration (in Kentucky): 8 minutes
Path length: 7 miles
Max Path width: 310 yds

Laurel County Tornado on Radar (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Laurel County Path.jpg
Laurel County Tornado Path (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)

The Laurel County tornado got its start at 7:04 PM approximately 5.2 miles west of East Bernstadt. Less than 10 minutes later the tornado lifted around 3.6 miles NNE of East Bernstadt. Several homes were destroyed along the path.

Aerial View of damage in Laurel County near I-75 (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)
Aerial view of damage in Laurel County near I-75 (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)

Bath County Tornado
Rating: EF-1
Estimated Peak Wind: 100 mph
Fatalities: 0
Duration (in Kentucky): 5 minutes
Path length: 7.5 miles
Max Path width: 250 yds

Bath Path.jpg

Another short-tracked tornado touched down nearly an hour before the Laurel County tornado. It started near Bath County High School at 6:08 PM and jumped several times before meeting its end 5 minutes later 2.5 miles northwest of Salt Lick, KY. The tornado caused damage to several trees, a barn, and some residential and even crossed I-64 in its path.

Damage to a structure near Salt Lick, KY (Courtesy: NWS Jackson, KY)