Breathitt County residents remember killer tornado on 10th anniversary

ATHOL, Ky. (WYMT) - It was ten years ago today when an F1 tornado killed two people in the small community of Athol in Breathitt County. People there say not a say goes by that they do not think of the afternoon a decade ago, when their tiny community was ripped apart.

"It came over the hillside, came down in that valley where all the trailers and the homes were at, and destroyed that place," said Athol Resident John Marshall.

The twister toppled hundreds of trees and knocked over barns and trailers. The tornado left two people dead and several others injured, but survivors say it could have been a lot worse.

"... bounced behind my father in law's house and destroyed his two barns. It went up into the hill and split. If it hadn't done that, if it had went in a straight line up there it would have destroyed everything up through there," Marshall said.

The people of Athol have rebuilt since that February day ten years ago. Tornado experts say tornados are rare for the month of February but not unheard of.

"We've had seven total February tornadoes. This was the second recorded, I should say recorded tornadoes. This was the second one. The first one actually being ten years before that in '93," said Ed Ray, Science Operations Officer for the National Weather Service in Jackson, KY.

Meteorologists say peak tornado season begins in March. While the Athol twister was very different from the cell that spawned tornadoes in March of last year, experts say being prepared can save your life.

"I would advise or encourage everyone to have plans formulated, talk with neighbors, have places to go ahead of time that are secure and safe," Ray said.

Residents of Athol say they have learned that lesson well, and the events of ten years ago are still fresh on everyone's mind.

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