National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Summary of the March 2nd 2012 Tornadic Supercells

On Friday March 2nd, 2012, tornadic supercells that developed in central and eastern Kentucky tracked into West Virginia. These storms were responsible for two deaths, an undetermined amount of injuries, and large areas of destruction within the Charleston, WV (RLX) National Weather Service WFO county warning area.

On the morning of March 2nd, a deep upper- level trough over the central plains began lifting northeastward into the Ohio River Valley, with maximum jet speeds of 125mph. At the surface, low pressure centered near Missouri began to deepen and move northeastward toward the southern Great Lakes region. By early afternoon, a warm front was positioned from southern Illinois, across Kentucky, southeastward into the Tennessee River Valley. In response to strong southerly flow, dewpoints across much of Kentucky began to exceed 60F. Late in the afternoon, the cold front began moving across central Kentucky as the surface low began to occlude, and the warm front stalled over central West Virginia.

At 6pm, a number of supercells ahead of the cold front were moving across southeast Ohio, central  Kentucky and eastern Kentucky. The strongest moved through West Liberty, KY, causing 8 deaths. This supercell entered the RLX county warning area (Lawrence County, KY)  at approximately 6:10pm before dissipating over Lincoln County  an hour later at approximately 7:10pm.  It was responsible for 2 deaths in Lawrence County, Kentucky along with extensive damage in Dunlow and Kiahsville, West Virginia.

FIG. 1. SPC MCD #0215 At 215pm the Storm Prediction Center issued a Mesoscale Discussion outlining an area that was favorable for strong destructive tornadoes in the late afternoon.


SPC Tornado Watch #62
FIG. 2 Tornado Watch #62 At 420pm the SPC issued a Tornado Watch covering Eastern Kentucky, western West Virginia, and southeast Ohio.

Storm 1 - Lawrence KY and Wayne County WV

Tornado Path 53 mi long.
FIG. 3 This tornado path was almost 53mi long, and reached EF-3 strength.


Base reflectivity image as storm crossed Wayne county
FIG. 4 Basic Reflectivity of a classic hook echo as it crossed Wayne County.


Radar base velocity as storm crossed Wayne county.
FIG. 5 This is the Base Velocity at the same time and position. This helps us determine the magnitude of the circulation.

Storm 2 - Lincoln County WV

This Tornado Path was 16 miles long
FIG. 6 This path was almost 16mi long. Rated an EF-1, it originated very close to where the long track tornado dissipated 30min earlier.


Hook echo shown on base reflectivity image
FIG. 7 Basic Reflectivity as the storm moved over Lincoln county


Tight circulation shown in the base velocity
FIG. 8 Base Velocity at the same time and position showing the tight circulation.


Storm 2 moving in behind storm 1
FIG. 9 Storm2 moving in behind Storm1

Storm3 - Mingo County WV (Magoffin County KY, Johnson County KY, Martin County KY)

Tornado Path from Storm 3
FIG. 10 The storm wasn't in Mingo County long, but it did extensive damage to a 60 ft. communication tower.


Jackson and Mingo County Tornado Track
FIG. 11 The entire track as it moved east toward Mingo County


Hook echo over Mingo county base reflectivity
FIG. 12 Base Reflectivity entering Mingo County


Hook echo seen from the Jackson, KY WSR-88D
FIG. 13 B ase Reflectivity west of Mingo County with a distinct hook echo at 0024z


Base Velocity entering Mingo County
FIG 14. Base Velocity entering Mingo County


Base velocity west of Mingo county.
FIG. 15 Base Velocity west of Mingo county at 0024z

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