The tornado that first touched down near Jonesboro, Arkansas, Friday night and wound its way into Kentucky for 227 miles brought damage and harm to much of western Kentucky.
Likely the longest track of any tornado in U.S. history, the twister paralleled Interstate 69 from Mayfield into Hopkins County, bringing destruction to the cities of Mayfield and Benton as well as to areas of Caldwell County.
Caldwell County Emergency Medical Services Director Mark Harrison said Saturday morning that Dawson Road – U.S. 62 between Princeton and Dawson Springs – was likely the hardest-hit area in the county.
“The fire department’s been out cutting trees all night,” he said. “They’ve been cutting trees and dragging limbs (off roads) and trying to open up holes (so cars can drive through) all night long.
“We had people out here before the storm. We were staged. We knew it was coming.”
The tornado went up Ky. 293 from near Interstate 24 in Lyon County to Princeton, where it crossed over U.S. 62 into Hopkins County.
“We had seven EMS crews on,” Harrison said. “One was from Trigg County to help us. We spent the night helping to find people, treat minor (injuries) and transported the serious ones.
“…But that was the concentrated area: Dawson Road, all the way out.”
Harrison said most of the injuries were caused by blunt trauma from debris.
He said the tornado came into Princeton around 7:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Friday.
“We had some EMS employees that had damage to their homes,” Harrison said. “One employee’s house (in Dawson Springs) was just gone. He was on duty all night. His wife and daughter rode it out in the bathroom, and they made it out.”
Death and destruction could also be seen in rural areas of western Kentucky. Randy Martin lives on U.S. 62 between Princeton and Dawson Springs and was a witness to the damage the storm brought. The tornado blew through his neighborhood, uprooting trees and littering roads with toppled trees and debris.
“We came home at 3 (Saturday) morning, and we usually just go up the steps,” he said, pointing to his back porch. “At first, I thought (the storm) blew the steps, but no, it blew the porch.”
The porch dug a small trench as it was dragged two feet, misaligning the steps from the porch.
“There is a bridge right off that hill,” Martin said, pointing to the distance. “It was just covered in trees. They thought the bridge fell through, it was so covered in them.”
Several trees in Martin’s yard were uprooted or snapped off in the middle, and his house took a 3-foot-long gash in the siding from debris during Friday’s storm.
“There was a shop (across the street),” he said. “It’s gone.”
Metal pieces from the shop could be found across the road from its location, with one piece hanging in the branches of a tree.
Martin said one of his neighbors found an empty box with a Mayfield address on it, indicating the twister carried it more than 60 miles.
Martin said he has heard of tragedy in his area.
“You see that debris up there that’s real high?” he asked, pointing across the highway. “That’s a brand-new double-wide trailer. It’s still sitting on its blocks – never got underpinned. The house next to it, where they lived before – (the tornado) never touched it, but it picked the double-wide up and dumped it on its roof.”
Martin added that someone who lived up the road from him died during the storm Friday night.