**UNLESS AVAILABLE/SOURCED FROM A GOVERNMENT WEBSITE OR GIVEN OUR EXPLICIT PERMISSION, NO IMAGES OR OTHER MEDIA FROM THIS SUMMARY ARE TO BE REDISTRIBUTED IN ANY WAY. SOME OF THIS MATERIAL WE HAVE OBTAINED UNDER VERY SPECIFIC PERMISSIONS TO FEATURE. WE WILL TAKE ACTION IF ANY REPOSTINGS OR REDISTRIBUTIONS ARE FOUND OF THE FOLLOWING SUMMARY CONTENT.**

A sleeping dog curled up amongst the debris. Image from the April 10, 1983 Main Street.

“I don’t ever want to see that again.”

“One thing I remember is how the people in the communities rallied around those that received damage or injuries. You just could not ask for more compassion, more help that was given by people that day and the day after. You can’t say enough about the help and support and particularly the compassion of Kentuckians to those who were victims.”

“We hope we never have to face another tornado, but if we do, we will have to be prepared for it. We learned a great deal from going through it. We learned what should and should not be done.”

“Although the dedicated staff worked long hours to coordinate relief to the thousands of Kentuckians affected, the overwhelming nature of the disaster prompted the development of the Kentucky Emergency Warning System and moved the division into a newly constructed Emergency Operation Center at Boone National Guard Center.”

“In times of disaster, people somehow become the strongest and the people of Stamping Ground did just that last night”

Introduction

Kentucky was hard hit in the 1974 Super Outbreak, with 11 violent (F4-F5) tornadoes tearing through the Bluegrass state. One of these, as of 2024, remains the most powerful in the Capital City area’s history. Although Frankfort proper was spared, the surrounding communities of Avenstoke, Evergreen, Big Eddy, Inverness Estates, Tierra Linda, Jett, and Woodlake faced the twister’s wrath head-on.

It was originally accepted that the twister continued well into Scott County, through Stamping Ground, and to near Sadieville. Little-known analysis years later by Dr. Fujita himself concluded that a violent downburst, rather than a tornado, was responsible for all of the damage beyond Woodlake.

When the dust settled, four lives were lost. Of the 122 injuries, 85 were caused by the tornado, and 37 were the result of the downburst.

The Tornado Talk team traveled to Central Kentucky in March of 2023 to gather materials for our summaries on this event and others from the April 3, 1974, Super Outbreak. Along the way, we met some wonderful people who helped us with our research, provided photos and other materials, and shared their experiences. We are overwhelmingly grateful to Beth Shields and Russ Hatter with the Capital City Museum, Robin Smith at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, the staff at the Anderson County Library, and Julia Taylor with the Scott County Public Library. Thank you to Jennifer Bartlett with the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History for providing access to the interviews from the Scott County (Kentucky) Public Library: Scott County Stamping Ground Tornado of 1974 Oral History Project. We appreciate the tremendous support from John Gordon and Tom Reaugh at the National Weather Service in Louisville, KY.

Our gratitude is extended to Jennifer Rodgers Skidmore and Pam Fitzpatrick from the April 3, 1974 tornado, Stamping Ground, Ky Facebook group for photographic material. A special thank you to Dr. Greg Forbes, who provided us with invaluable information and guidance regarding the tornado path and transition to a downburst event based on the analysis by Dr. Ted Fujita. We are grateful for his time reviewing our work to ensure we correctly captured Dr. Fujita’s research.

We documented this event in 11 premium chapters exclusive for Patreon supporters.

These narratives illustrate the tragedies faced that late Wednesday, as well as the hope and perseverance in the days following.

Premium Summaries

A map displaying the summary segments for this tornado and downburst.

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An aerial view of the damage in Avenstoke. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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The ravaged remains of Evergreen Baptist Church. Note the numerous and significant shrapnel impacts in the exterior at right. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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A largely intact oven left amidst the wreckage of mobile homes at Williams Trailer Court. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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Violent destruction looking from near the river bank northwest toward State Highway 1263. Over a half dozen vehicles are strewn about in this photo. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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A view of the collapsed Stephens home. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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An aerial view of the destruction at Mitchell’s Trailer Park. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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Oblique aerial of destruction to trees and residences just past the Kettenring farm along Pea Ridge Road. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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Oblique aerial of damage in Stamping Ground, looking north. Image from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives.

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What remained of the Stamping Ground Baptist Church. Photo provided by Pam Fitzpatrick.

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Ground-level view of the destruction at Parker’s Trailer Court. Photo provided by Jennifer Rodgers-Skidmore.

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Carpenters helping rebuild a home on the corner of Main Street and Locust Fork Pike in Stamping Ground. Photo provided by Jennifer Rodgers-Skidmore.

Synopsis

This tornado first formed around 5:50 pm local time, roughly 1.8 miles SSW of Harrisonville near Cat Ridge Road in extreme southeastern Shelby County. It quickly moved into northern Anderson County near where Tracy Road meets Waddy Road. Avenstoke was the only community in this county struck by the twister. Over 30 structures, including about one-third of the town’s residences, were damaged or destroyed.

From Avenstoke, the growing vortex plowed over a mile through open fields and periodic groves of trees in mainly unpopulated land. It then approached a few properties along Highway 151 (Graefenburg Road) near the Anderson/Franklin County line.

After leaving Highway 151, the twister traversed more farmland before striking a handful of homes and farm buildings along South Benson Road. From here, the funnel expanded further, racing northeast for about a mile through uninhabited land before steamrolling into the community of Evergreen.

The western side of Evergreen was the first to suffer. Dozens of residences, many of which were brand new, were stripped of roofs and walls. Most of these ravaged homes were concentrated in the Coolbrook subdivision.

One family decided to visit friends and to get to their destination, they cut across Evergreen Road. Or at least they tried to until they drove right into the tornado. In the car was Mattie Morrow, husband David, two daughters, Stacey and Susie, and one son, Davey. Mattie told The State Journal in a 2004 retrospective edition what happened, “We were pretty close to Evergreen Baptist Church when it picked up the car. It seemed like it went on forever. When it finally stopped, we were in the middle of a field, and our son was not in the car. We do not know if, as the car was rolling, he rolled out or if the wind sucked him out. Davey does not remember to this day leaving the car. All he remembers is something kept hitting him. We were running everywhere trying to find him, and his dad finally ran up on him covered with mud and blood.” Mattie continued, “I was carrying Susie as she could not walk. Both bones in her right leg were broken, and a lot of the soft tissue in her right leg had been cut out.”

“Stacey was like someone who had been cut in two. One side, her right, was normal, but her left side had the tendons and ligaments torn and was very badly bruised. She had to walk with crutches for several weeks. My husband had one small cut on his arm, and it looked like someone had taken sandpaper and scrubbed all the skin from his face, arms, and hands. I had a cracked pelvic bone and had to have surgery on my leg where a piece of hard plastic had cut my leg and was lodged beside the bones in my leg.

These injuries were nothing compared to the damage done to our son. He had a broken leg, broken hip, broken arm, broken ribs, and broken hands. He had 15 percent of his liver knocked off; it knocked one of his kidneys loose and damaged the other one, burst both eardrums, and blinded him in both eyes. He had about 25 surgeries while he was in the hospital and has had three surgeries since then.” In a 2014 edition of the State Journal, Mattie added that her son was permanently affected by his injuries.

Evergreen Baptist Church was beaten to a pulp by wind-borne debris. They had renovated the sanctuary and added office space only four years prior. All of this and an educational building were laid to ruins. Two of the three buses at the church were destroyed, and the chassis of one was never found.

Tragically, the first two fatalities occurred in a home off Evergreen Road. Charles Richard (Rick) McKinley, his wife Arlene and their two young girls, Laurel and Amy were in the house when the tornado struck. Per The State Journal, “Witnesses said the tornado lifted the structure 20 feet in the air, and there, suspended, obliterated it.” The family were tossed 300 yards behind the house. Rick and Arlene were killed but their daughters survived.

Amy had a sprained ankle and a few cuts and bruises. Laurel was more seriously injured. She had two broken arms, a fractured leg, a cracked collarbone, and a cut over her left eye. In addition, a piece of debris was lodged in her side dangerously close to her lung. According to The State Journal, she had burn marks on her arm from roof tar that had landed on top of her.

The tornado left Evergreen behind in seconds and continued to the northeast. The circulation was vast, with tornadic winds extending, at a minimum, over 1,850 yards (1.05 miles) in diameter. Large sections of trees were razed as the twister advanced another mile to Jones Lane. In this area, a trailer court was disintegrated, along with a handful of nearby site-built homes. A vehicle junkyard or storage area was trashed, with at least dozens, if not close to a hundred, cars and pickup trucks dragged, rolled, bounced, or smashed together. Some were blown as much as 400 yards across a field.

The tornadic windfield next enveloped dozens of structures off of Lawrenceburg Road (U.S. 127). On the southern side of the circulation, both Morton Buildings, Inc. and Roy Peach Lumber Company sustained heavy damage. Lumber was found embedded in nearby fields, and trucks had to yank them out of the ground.

The destruction was greatest around the Old Harrodsburg Road offshoot a few hundred yards to the north. Most of the 25 mobile homes at Williams Trailer Court were dashed to pieces, with five residents hospitalized. A handful of site-built houses lost roofs and/or walls. Large trees were entirely stripped and, in some cases, partially debarked.

In the midst of this havoc was the Trigometer Plant. The 14,000-square-foot business produced small electric thermostats. The entire facility was gutted, with exterior walls and some roofing stripped from the steel frame. The inside turned into a washing machine of appliances and materials.

The twister charged beyond Lawrenceburg Road and continued without pause through a steep ravine, directly over the bridge containing Interstate 64. A hundred feet below along the Cedar Run creek, a few dwellings on Old Lawrenceburg Road – along with the surrounding forest – were shredded.

Levina Curry and her husband, Jim, lived in a house along Old Lawrenceburg Road. Per an article in The State Journal on March 30, 2014, they walked two doors down to their granddaughter’s house to shelter. The home was devastated. Levina was the most seriously hurt, while the others at the home had minor injuries. She was transferred to Kings Daughters’ Hospital and then to the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center. Levina Curry passed away from her injuries on April 4 at 3:30 am.

Next, the twister steamrolled a large stretch of forest in the hilly terrain. It abruptly plunged 300 feet into a valley containing the mighty Kentucky River. The primary road here on the western shore is State Highway 1263 (also called Big Eddy Road). Stretching from it along the bank is Travis Circle. The cluster of dwellings located here is known as Big Eddy, and is situated 2.5 miles southeast of downtown Frankfort.

The tiny community was engulfed by the circulation. The destruction here was among the most intense of the entire track. Every structure was damaged. Despite most of these substantial, site-built houses (some two stories) consisting of heavy cinderblock construction, the majority were destroyed, and in several cases, completely obliterated from their foundations.

Tragically, a beloved resident of the area was killed. 73-year-old Charles Travis was retired from the Frankfort and Cincinnati Railroad. His wife, Martha, passed away in 1967, and he lived alone in a two-story home on his Big Eddy farm. The father of one daughter and nine sons lived near many family members. The tornado wiped out Charles’ home. He was tossed and found along the bank behind the residence under a pile of tree limbs. His grandson, George, told The State Journal that he found the body. “He was laying just like someone who just walked down there and laid down and went to sleep. As far as I could tell, he was unconscious, and I couldn’t even tell if he was breathing…We didn’t move him. I just put my head on his chest.” George had this to say about the devastation on his grandfather’s property, “There was hardly any trace of my grandpa’s house, other than the appliances that were in the kitchen—refrigerator and stove—they were laying right there in that hollow below him.”

The vortex swept across the Kentucky River in moments, smashing a few site-built residences and disrupting a mining operation on the eastern bank. An isolated farm set back from Glenns Creek Road was also trashed before the still mile-wide tornado rapidly ascended 300 feet out of the valley, across a stretch of woodland, and straight into the neighborhood of Inverness Estates. The roofs of roughly a half dozen dwellings were peeled off and smeared through a field, with other houses less critically damaged.

Located off of Hanley Lane, the Tierra Linda neighborhood was much more developed in 1974 than Inverness. Dozens of homes were put beyond repair as the twister raced by. In some cases, only a few walls of these large, site-built dwellings remained. This stronger damage was concentrated along an almost north-south oriented corridor about 3-4 homes across. Residences on either side of this zone were mostly limited to roofing loss, demonstrating the increasingly multi-vortex and erratic nature of this twister as time went on.

The mile-plus wide tornado (>1,800 yards) roared into the community of Jett. Scores of buildings, from commercial to religious to residential, were indiscriminately destroyed. Capital City Church felt the brunt of the core winds of the twister. S.T. Smither, one of the church’s charter members, was interviewed in that 1983 State Journal article. “The concrete block walls of the educational building fell in. The roof of the sanctuary was ripped away, and the walls collapsed. Only the pews and the section of the building containing the choir loft remained.”

Mitchell’s Trailer Park along Versailles Road was hit exceptionally hard. The twister injured seven when 34 mobile homes were strewn about in a mangled mess. Miraculously, no one was killed. Jettown Plaza shopping center, nestled near Mitchell’s Trailer Park, sustained heavy damage. Most storefront windows were blown out, and the roof was removed.

Just beyond U.S. 60 on Taylor Tot Road, the tornado encountered two very large industrial buildings owned by Bendix-Westinghouse. This is immediately south of U.S. 421. A steel-framed portion of one buckled and fell, with surrounding tractor-trailers knocked over. Brick-exterior fell apart on the second building. A nearby water tower was able to withstand the winds, and as of 2023, it is still there.

The tornado churned over U.S. 421 (Leestown Road). The expansive size is demonstrated by the fact that 1,500 yards east of the aforementioned industrial structures was a third Bendix-Westinghouse facility. It too was heavily damaged, with portions of the outer brick cladding, as well as some roofing, peeled off. A handful of isolated farms up to South Elkhorn Creek were hard hit, with most outbuildings collapsed or turned into kindling and houses stripped of roofs.

The tornado left the Capital City region in turmoil as it made its way to the northeast into the community of Woodlake. As the twister crossed Georgetown Road (Highway 460), scattered farms were damaged or destroyed. Powerlines along the route were downed, surrounded by wooden planks from nearby homes.

From Woodlake, the path curved further northeastward than before, traversing over sparse farmland for another two miles before it crossed into Scott County 3.5 miles SW of Stamping Ground. By the time it reached the intersection of Rocky Branch Road (Highway 1262) and Woodlake Pike (Highway 1688), intense straight-line winds accompanying the storm were beginning to cause as much damage as the twister itself.

The swath of wind-borne destruction widened as it rapidly swept up Woodlake Road and across North Elkhorn Creek into a notable community. In the 1970s, Stamping Ground was populated by about 400 people. Hundreds of structures were left beyond repair in the community, including around 240 homes. Among these residences were early settlement houses built in the 19th century. Numerous farms were also left in tatters, where up to 350 barns were destroyed. An additional 150-200 head of livestock were killed.

Every business and service suffered in some way. All three of Stamping Ground’s churches were destroyed. The lone elementary school lost its upper floor and roof. Two grocery stores on Main Street were significantly impacted, with one being leveled. The fire station, post office, bank, Masonic Lodge, Forestry Division building, repair shops, and stores were also damaged.

For twelve more miles to the northeast the vicious wind continued. Trees were downed and scattered mobile homes fell to pieces as it passed Locust Fork Road. Near Long Lick Pike, the chaotic swath reached a tremendous six miles across. It was not until the community of Sadieville in northern Scott County that the destructive force finally dissipated near 6:28 pm local time.

While researching this event, The Tornado Talk team came across some important information in a report from renowned meteorologist Dr. Tetsuya Theodore Fujita. A re-analysis of his initial survey of this tornado determined that damage from about 2.8 miles southwest of Stamping Ground, through that community and to the end of the path, was caused by a downburst.

The following excerpt is quoted from Dr. Fujita’s May 1978 report, “Manual of downburst identification for Project NIMROD.” He begins with describing the aerial surveys he and his surveyors conducted in the days following the 1974 Super Outbreak. You can find the full report here.

“Joseph Golden of ERL, Boulder, and John McCarthy of the University of Oklahoma, Norman, flying in a northeasterly direction from Frankfort, followed the F4 tornado path. It widened to approximately 6 miles in width to the east of Stamping Ground, Ky. On US-227. The wide path continued across I-75 about 10 miles further northeast.

A few hours later, Fujita also flew across the wide path near Stamping Ground, Kentucky, witnessing the amazing extent of the wide-spread damage.

As a result of our post-flight analyses of the damage patterns, the three of us more or less concluded that the Frankfort tornado swirled out into a giant-sized tornado during its dissipating stage.

Three years later, in 1977, the wide-path area was re-analyzed, in light of an increased knowledge in downburst damage. Shown in Figure 7.3 is the revised patterns of the Frankfort tornado, consisting of a tornado and a downburst, 17 miles long and 6 miles wide. There were at least 16 swaths of F1 damage inside the downburst area.

Apparently a strong downburst behind a weakening tornado undercut the tornado circulation; thus, in effect, wiping out the swirling motion.”

Dr. Fujita’s revised map of the tornado and downburst. Image courtesy of Dr. Greg Forbes and Fujita’s archives, from the report, “Manual of downburst identification for Project NIMROD.”

So what is a downburst? The National Weather Service (NWS) Louisville office has an excellent webpage that helps explain this phenomenon in terms that anyone can understand. We will quote a few portions below, but you can find the full explanation here.

“Downbursts are powerful winds that descend from a thunderstorm and spread out quickly once they hit the ground. These winds can easily cause damage similar to that of a tornado, and are sometimes misinterpreted as tornadoes…

…As the storm matures, the updraft continues to feed the cloud with moist, unstable air… Sometimes the updraft coming into the storm is so strong, it suspends a large amount of rain and hail in the middle and upper parts of the storm. Meanwhile, strong flow can develop on the backside of the storm and introduce drier air into the middle and lower parts of the storm.

In the production of the downburst, that large core of rain and hail that the updraft had been holding in the upper parts of the storm falls rapidly towards the ground. It falls very quickly and drags a lot of air along with it, gaining speed as it plummets earthward…. When the downdraft hits the ground, much like a stream of water coming out of a faucet and hitting the sink, it spreads out rapidly in all directions and becomes known as a downburst… Also, from a distance downbursts can sometimes look similar to tornadoes, as seen in the image on the left below. The type of downburst we hear about most often is a “microburst,” which means the damaging winds are confined to an area less than two and a half miles across. Otherwise, it’s a “macroburst.”

An example from the NWS Louisville of a downburst near Georgetown, KY, on July 18, 2007.

This relatively obscure correction of the Frankfort tornado path, by a man undisputedly known as the greatest tornado scientist the world has yet seen, was buried and forgotten without reaching the public sphere. It is only through our correspondence with another esteemed meteorologist who was also Fujita’s apprentice, Dr. Greg Forbes, that we can state with full confidence that the damage at Stamping Ground and beyond was wrought by a broad area of downbursts, with even more intense embedded microbursts causing particularly extreme damage matching that of a tornado.

Does the difference in classification between a downburst and a tornado change in any way the significance of the suffering and stories at Stamping Ground? Certainly not! This does not change the physical magnitude of the devastation at Stamping Ground. The relatively greater rarity of such large, high-end, and destructive downburst disasters increases the historical and meteorological significance of the story of Stamping Ground.

The strongest tornado to ever hit portions of Kentucky’s capital city and surrounding areas left widespread devastation, numerous injuries, and four fatalities. The intense winds that encompassed Stamping Ground and beyond were historic and left a lasting mark on those affected.

Property losses were also severe. In Anderson County, per the April 1974 Storm Data Publication (SDP), 12 homes and 24 other structures were destroyed. In Franklin County, a 1999 edition of The State Journal stated that 230 houses, 150 mobile homes, 15 businesses, and two churches were totaled. Franklin County Civil Defense Director Joe Discher estimated that up to 600 additional residences had some form of damage. The SDP noted that 134 dwellings were uninhabitable in Scott County, with hundreds of other structures – including several businesses – also beyond repair. Monetary losses from the storm were estimated to be in the millions.

From Avenstoke to Evergreen, Jett to Stamping Ground, the volunteer effort for recovery and restoration was overwhelming. The American Red Cross established local offices across Anderson, Franklin, and Scott Counties. Volunteers sorted mounds of donated food and clothing to prepare for distribution to the hardest-hit areas. Over 200 people showed up for a blood drive in Scott County.

An extensive cleanup effort for the Franklin County communities occurred on April 6. Per The Sunday Herald-Leader out of Lexington, KY, approximately 4,000 people volunteered. That same day, many people arrived at Stamping Ground to help with debris removal. The Sunday Herald-Leader reported that the town “was assisted by 300 to 400 students from the University of Kentucky, about as many from Georgetown College, packs of Boys Scouts of America, and members of the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and the Army Reserve Engineering Corps. Together, they helped the little community dig out.”

Stats

Path length: 23.0 miles

Width: 2,100 yards (1.19 miles)

Fatalities: 4

Injuries: 85 (+37 non-tornadic)

Rating: F4

Counties: Shelby, Anderson, Franklin, Scott

A map of both the SPC and corrected tracks.

Discrepancies

We gathered information for this event from the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) and National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) databases, as well as the April 1974 Storm Data Publication (SDP), Significant Tornadoes, 1974-2022 by Thomas Grazulis, the National Weather Service (NWS) Louisville tornado database, publications by Dr. Tetsuya Fujita and Dr. Joseph Golden (with input from Dr. Greg Forbes), and our detailed analysis of all available resources and found the following differences:

Path Length

The SPC lists a path length of 79.4 miles. The NCDC lists a path length of 80 miles. Grazulis lists a path length of 36 miles. Fujita’s pre-downburst discovery path length in the April 1975 map, “Superoutbreak tornadoes of April 3-4, 1974,” and other publications was 36 miles.

After discovering downbursts, he revised this track in his May 1978 report, “Manual of downburst identification for Project NIMROD.” His new path length comprised the first 21 miles of the track. He reclassified the last 15 miles as a downburst swath.

In conjunction with Fujita-based start and end points (see other discrepancies below), our analysis indicates a total track length, accounting for all twists and turns, of 23.0 miles.

Maximum Width

The SPC lists a maximum width of 10 yards. The NCDC lists a maximum width of 33 yards. Grazulis lists a maximum width of 800 yards, which the NWS Louisville adopted.

Before discovering downbursts, Fujita’s maximum tornado width was 6 miles (10,560 yards). In his May 1978 report, he reattributed that maximum width to the downburst but did not list a new maximum width for the tornado.

The aerial imagery perspectives we currently possess do not cover a broad enough area to determine the full limit of the tornadic winds. Analysis of what materials we do have indicates a maximum width of at least 2,100 yards (1.19 miles).

Injuries

The SPC/NCDC/SDP/NWS Louisville/Grazulis/Fujita list 122 injuries for the track. The NCDC/SDP clarify that 85 of those injuries were in Franklin County, and the other 37 were in Scott County. Nearly every injury from the Scott County number, if not all, is now understood to be the result of non-tornadic winds. In light of this, we list 85 as injured by the twister.

Counties

The SPC/NCDC/NWS Louisville/Grazulis list Anderson, Franklin, and Scott Counties. Due to the Fujita maps-based adjustment of the start point (see section below), we list Shelby, Anderson, Franklin, and Scott Counties.

Start Point

The SPC/NCDC list a start point 2.6 miles south of Harrisonville at 38.05 / -85.07.

The only close-in mapping of the beginning of the path are two (pre-downburst discovery) Fujita maps. One of these was found in a 2009 paper by Dr. Joseph Golden (who worked with Fujita to survey the tornado), titled “Extreme Wind Events and Damage Assessment in the U.S.”

The second map was a preliminary hand-drawn track on a paper map by Fujita, which Dr. Greg Forbes provided us. Both show the path starting roughly 1.8 miles SSW of Harrisonville near Cat Ridge Road in extreme southeastern Shelby County and 1.5 miles before reaching Anderson County. In the absence of any other direct documentation of this area, we decided that the adjusted start location is more likely to be accurate. Our corrected start coordinate is 38.0636 / -85.0760.

End Point and Downburst Reanalysis

Using a map from Fujita’s May 1978 report, “Manual of downburst identification for Project NIMROD,” we approximated a tornado endpoint 2.8 miles southwest of Stamping Ground. Our corrected end coordinate for the tornado is 38.2439 / -84.7253.

The downburst began about 4.7 miles SW of Stamping Ground and ended 0.8 miles NE of Sadieville. According to Fujita, it measured 17 miles long and up to 6 miles in width. Smaller, embedded microbursts caused the most potent damage. The start and end coordinates for the downburst are 38.2197 / -84.7424 and 38.4001 / -84.5323.

The latter half of Chapter 8: Stamping Ground and Beyond explores this discrepancy in great detail and why Fujita made this change years after finalizing his survey work. In short, the revision of the Frankfort tornado track was part of Fujita’s discovery of the downburst/microburst/macroburst phenomena.

We understand that this is a serious revision. To ensure there was no room for error or misinterpretation, we consulted with meteorologist Dr. Greg Forbes, who was Fujita’s apprentice and a pioneer in his own right. He confirmed that the damage was strictly non-tornadic at Stamping Ground and that there were no smaller embedded tornadoes within the downburst swath.

This does not change the physical magnitude of the devastation at Stamping Ground. The relatively greater rarity of such large, high-end, and destructive downburst disasters increases the historical and meteorological significance of the story of Stamping Ground.

All other sources for the endpoint are based on the initial analysis years before downbursts were discovered. The SPC lists an end point 0.8 miles SE of Sadieville at 38.38 / -84.53. The NCDC coordinate of 37.50 / -84.42 marks an endpoint 61.7 miles SE of Sadieville or 2.7 miles SSW of Carterville.

Time

The counties this tornado tracked through legally switched from central to eastern time in 1961. However, most references to the tornado were still based on central time. To avoid confusion, we decided on a local time that corresponds with CDT.

The SPC lists a start time of 16:50 CST. The NCDC lists start and end times of 16:50 and 17:15 CST.

The NWS Louisville tornado database lists a start time of 4:50 pm (presumably in CST). Grazulis lists a start time of 17:50 CDT. The SDP notes the tornado as present in northeastern Anderson County at 5:50 pm and Stamping Ground at 6:15 pm.

A Fujita map in Golden’s 2009 paper appears to indicate 5:50 pm CDT as when the tornado was in the vicinity of Avenstoke. This implies the tornado likely began a little before 5:50 pm CDT.

Without direct evidence proving an earlier start time, we decided to give a time of occurrence from 5:50 pm CDT to approximately 6:13 pm CDT. The end time is an estimation based on the rate of travel and when Stamping Ground was struck.

In Loving Memory

In Evergreen

Arlene Joyce Rarden McKinley, 21

Charles Richard “Ricky” McKinley Jr., 21

Between Evergreen and Big Eddy

Levina Poynter Curry, 75

In Big Eddy

Charles Shelby Travis, 73

Sources

The sources compiled in our research for this summary can be found here.

Questions or comments about this summary?  Contact us here!

Note:  There are some images/videos in our summaries that were licensed to us to be used only on this website. If you would like to use an image/video in your project or blog, please contact us and we will grant permission if possible.

Newspaper clips are embedded via newspapers.com. Please see their terms and conditions.

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