There is no doubt that we have an elevated threat of severe storms Wednesday. It has our weather department thinking back to another day that will be forever etched in our memories: March 2, 2012.
The tornadoes that swept through the Tri-State on that day claimed the lives of 11 people across the region, damaged hundreds of homes and cost millions of dollars to recover from.
It was one of the few times in recent memory that the Storm Prediction Center included the Tri-State in a moderate or high risk of severe storms. On that day, a high risk was drawn like a bullseye over us.
It's a moderate risk of severe storms for us Wednesday, and it includes several counties north of Cincinnati. An enhanced risk covers the rest of the Tri-State.
But Wednesday's setup is definitely very different from the system that ripped across the Tri-State more than four years ago. The atmosphere has less shear to work with, which means our tornado risk is lower. We can't rule it out, but we aren't expecting incredibly strong, long-lived tornadoes.
But what is impressive in Wednesday's severe weather setup is the damaging wind threat. We could see winds that rival a Category 1 hurricane. That means wind gusts in our strongest storms could top 70 to 75 mph. Those are wind speeds that quickly cause widespread damage.
It seems like tornadoes typically get the top billing and attention when it comes to severe weather days and winds are sometimes set on the back burner. Wednesday is NOT a day to forget the power of straight line winds. Wind damage will be the big story come Thursday morning when we are surveying damage, assessing the number without power and picking up broken tree limbs.
Here's a look back at how the storms unfolded on March 2, 2012:
8 a m. - the meteorologists who issue severe weather outlooks for the nation at the Storm Prediction Center declared the Tri-State in a rare HIGH RISK bullseye for severe weather. Over the past 10 years, only 3-6 days have ever been deemed "HIGH RISK" days.
3:44 p.m. - So, the atmosphere was primed and the first tornado of the day whacked Carrollton, Ky. at 3:44 p.m. with 95 mph winds. This EF1 was a football field and a half wide and stayed on the ground for 2.5 miles. Thankfully no one was hurt. Residents were lucky.
3:53 p.m. - Just nine minutes later - not even 4 p.m. yet - Holton, Indiana would see one of the worst tornadoes of the day. Two people would die that day with six getting hurt when a monster tornado swept across this small town. A tornado the size of three and half football fields had winds up to 145 mph. This EF3 stayed on the ground for nine miles.
4:25 p.m. - Three people in Owenton were hurt when an EF2 tornado cut a 5-mile long path hitting speeds of 125 mph. Clearly, the atmosphere was overloaded.
4:30 p.m. - Just five minutes later, the strongest tornado of the day killed 4 people and hurt 8 others. An EF4 tornado with winds of 175 mph crippled an area - with near complete destruction - between Crittenden and Piner, Kentucky. This was the first EF4 since the infamous Xenia outbreak in 1974. This violent storm stayed on the ground for 9 miles and was 1/2 mile wide!
4:40 p.m. - Only 10 minutes later, another separate giant tornado hit Moscow, Ohio as winds hit 160 mph and incredibly stayed on the ground for a full 23 miles! Three people were killed. This EF3 actually started in Peach Grove, Ky., skipped the river to Moscow and continued to Bethel and Hamersville, according to the National Weather Service.
Within the next hour, another tornado hit Bracken County, Kentucky and three more tornadoes ravaged Adams County Ohio where three people were hurt in West Union.
The final count: nine tornadoes in under two hours, making this day the worst tornado outbreak in Tri-State history.