Update: The National Weather Service in Paducah survey teams say the tornado in Carlile, Ballard and McCracken Counties Thursday morning was an EF-2, with estimated peak winds around 125 miles per hour. The tornado had a path length of 16.7 miles and a width of 300 yards.
NWS describes the tornado as having quickly intensified. At least a dozen homes had major structural damage. Dozens of structures were destroyed. Dozens of homes and other buildings had minor damage. Mr. Zion Baptist Church had much of the roof destroyed. The Kentucky Oaks Mall and a nearby strip mall had some damage.
Only one reported injury involved a grain bin blown on top of a pickup truck. Four cows were killed.
The McCracken County Judge/Executive’s office declared a state of emergency Thursday following a confirmed tornado that Kentucky State Police said touched down in West Paducah Thursday morning.
Ballard County also declared a state of emergency on Thursday.
The tornado caused damage across five square miles and injured one person.
KSP said the injury is non-life-threatening. All first response agencies in McCracken County are on the scene along with Post One officers.
The KSP said Mount Zion Preschool Center sustained some damage. There were 40 students inside at the time the storm hit, but no injuries have been reported.
McCracken County Sheriff Matt Carter spoke at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “I certainly want to acknowledge and make very clear that the almighty hand of God provided safety to our community...This could have been of an extremely high fatality rate and we’re very fortunate and blessed to report that one minor injury,” he said.
McCracken County Emergency Management Director Jerome Mansfield said “emergency preparedness paid off,” for those inside the Mt. Zion Baptist Church. He said the instructors and pre-school students went to a safe room that was lined out in their emergency preparedness plan.
Carter said three homes are totally devastated and about 12 others have minor to moderate damage.
Concord Fire Chief Bob McGowan said the one, non-life-threatening injury was caused when a man’s truck was trapped under a grain bin. He said law enforcement removed the man from his vehicle and he sustained minor scratches and cuts.
The American Red Cross in Paducah has set up a shelter downtown at Broadway United Methodist Church for people affected by the storm.
Deputy Judge/Executive Steve Doolittle said the county is still under a state of emergency from recent flooding as well. He said the designations help the county “marshal their resources” while dealing with damage.
Mansfield said Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative President Greg Grissom is asking people to stay away from downed power lines as crews work to make repairs. He said all available crews are responding and asking for mutual aid crews from Hopkinsville, Clarksville, Tennessee and Dyersburg, Tennessee.
Mansfield said the storm caused 7,500 people to lose power with multiple transmission facilities damaged. He said JPEC has restored service to around 3,000 people and are working to assess the damage.
He also said Kentucky Oaks Mall is without power after the storm. Kentucky Oaks Mall said they will be closed for the remainder of the day.