Kentucky tornado: Map shows path of possible ‘longest single-track twister’ wreaking havoc

‘Regardless of whether or not it was a single tornado, the longevity of this storm will likely be studied for decades to come’

Related video: Experts awestruck by timing, magnitude of Midwest U.S. tornadoes

The deadly tornado that wreaked havoc across four states over the weekend may have been the longest single-twister tornado in US history once its path is determined by the National Weather Service.

The previous record-holding tornado struck near Ellington, Missouri on 18 March 1925 and blazed a path lasting around 218 miles, through three states and two large rivers during its three-and-a-half-hour lifespan.

“On 18 March 1925, a tornado travelled at least 352 km through the US states of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. It killed 695 people, more than any other tornado in US history. The tornado lasted 3.5 hours, longer than any other in recorded history,” the Guinness World Records website states.

Initial reports suggest that Friday night’s tornado may have broken that record. It started in northeastern Arkansas and reportedly stayed on the ground for around 223 miles before ending in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. That distance is an estimate shared by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear during a press conference on Saturday.

The storm in 1925 would later be named the “Tri-State Tornado” and has been categorised as an F-5 storm, which is the strongest possible classification on the scale, with winds reaching at least 261 mph.

When the Tri-State Tornado was at its biggest, it measured 12 football fields in width. Hitting three states at a time before storm sirens and weather radar had been instituted, it killed 695 people and injured around 2,000, according to the Evansville Courier & Press.

Friday’s tornado could be studied for decades to come – scientists published a paper on the Tri-state tornado in 2013, 88 years after it struck.

“If confirmed, the tornado (family?) touching down [southwest] of Cayce, [Kentucky] on [December] 10th would be the longest single-track twister (400 km!) to inflict damage in 4 states—[with a] damage path longer than the (in)famous 1925 Tri-State tornado,” metabolic engineer Pablo Iván Nikel tweeted on Sunday.

“Regardless of whether or not it was a single tornado, the longevity of this storm will likely be studied for decades to come,” student meteorologist at Cornell University Harrison Tran wrote.

Governor Andy Beshear said on Monday that at least 64 Kentuckians have died, but added: “Undoubtedly there will be more.” He said it would probably take weeks to determine the scale of the devastation.

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