Upon Further Review: The May 18, 1995 Ohio Valley Severe Weather Outbreak (168)

John Gordon, National Weather Service, Louisville, KY

Cody Moore, University of Louisville




During the morning hours of May 18, 1995, a line of severe thunderstorms pushed through Kentucky producing millions of dollars in damage and causing dozens of injuries. As the quasi-linear convective system (QLCS) approached the Interstate-75 corridor, it produced widespread damage at Jessamine County High School in Nicholasville, KY, just as students were arriving at school. Large sections of the school's roof were torn off and bleachers were picked up and thrown across the football field. Over 30 students were injured during the storm. The storm also produced considerable structural damage to the Walmart and numerous businesses and homes in the city. The QLCS continued to barrel eastward to the West Virginia state line, producing significant wind damage along its path.

Storm surveys from 1995 listed the damage as straight-line winds. However, at a rotary talk in 2016, numerous questions and skepticism focused on why this was not declared a tornado in Nicholasville at the time. More than two decades later, a National Weather Service (NWS) investigation revisited this event, including examining Doppler radar and environmental weather data, videos, photos, newspaper articles, and talking with eyewitnesses.

After months of assessing the evidence, NWS Louisville confirmed that a 24-mile F2 tornado ripped through Nicholasville that morning. Numerous changes are being made to Storm Data, including increasing the maximum winds to 145 mph, extending tornado damage over four counties, and updating another nearby tornado for a 10-mile track. A comprehensive webpage was created on this event: http://www.weather.gov/lmk/may18_1995_tornadoes.