On December 10, 2021, Western Kentucky was hit hard by a cluster of deadly tornados. Gov. Andy Beshear stated that tornados caused 77 deaths in the state — the deadliest in Kentucky’s history. On top of the historic death toll, the tornados also caused damage to many towns, completely leveling many homes and businesses. However, after any type of destructions comes rebuilding and resiliency.
As the agriculture world’s eyes turn to Louisville in the coming weeks thanks to the National Farm Machinery Show, the University of Kentucky Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering is using the opportunity to highlight the resiliency of Western Kentuckians who are continuing to deal with the aftermath of the tornados that ravaged much of the area.
Attendees of the National Farm Machinery Show, which runs from February 16 to 19 in Louisville, will see a retrospective display of the tornado outbreak in the department’s booth. Located in the Kentucky Exposition Center’s West Wing, the booth will include information on the track of the tornadoes, debris, educational displays about generators, temporary fencing and tornado shelters. It will also feature information about ongoing needs for the area and ways people can donate.
Matt Dixon, UK agricultural meteorologist, and Karin Pekarchik, UK senior extension associate, are spearheading the booth’s development.
“I wanted to give attendees of the National Farm Machinery Show the opportunity to learn about the long-track tornadic system and how Western Kentuckians are successfully overcoming adversity from this devastating event,” said Dixon, a meteorologist in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “I also want people to learn about the needs that still exist and ways they can continue to help Kentucky’s tornado victims recover. This is not a quick turnaround for those involved, and in many cases, it will take years to recover.”
The department is working with the UK Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History to record and archive an oral history of the tornadic event. During the National Farm Machinery Show, department faculty and staff will record the professional stories of area emergency management personnel and first responders who were on the front lines during and after the tornado.
“As a meteorologist, this is one of those events you never want to see,” Dixon said. “Unfortunately, it happened, and we hope this retrospective display will give people a greater understanding of the dangers of a tornado and how we can prepare for future severe weather events, but at the same time, be a communicative hub to help those in need.”