Eleven tornadoes tore through western Kentucky in one weekend, according to the National Weather Service; five on June 21, one of which touched down and caused significant damage to two piers at Kentucky Dam Marina in Gilbertsville and six on June 23, one of which touched down and demolished two docks at Moors Marina in Gilbertsville.
The National Weather Service (NWS) reported the EF-1 tornado touched down at Kentucky Dam Marina at approximately 5:42 p.m. reportedly traveled 0.7 miles from the edge of the property near Golf Course Maintenance Drive, crossed Highway 641 and created a clear path to the marina where it broke loose two large piers and pushed them out into the bay, dragging concrete block tie-downs along the floor of the bay, and destroyed electrical systems and gang planks. The maximum width of the tornado was 50 yards with estimated peak winds at 110 mph.
Norman Frazier, owner of Norman's Marine Service LLC of Camden, Tennessee, said his crew arrived on the scene at Kentucky Dam Marina Friday evening within two hours of the tornado to begin assessment and cleanup of the damage. Thursday, he reported the crews were struggling to maintain progress because new storms kept popping up and causing them to have to backtrack. The main goals, he said, are to secure the assets, establish a safe passage walkway and then gather the debris that scattered when it went airborne. He said when the cleanup is complete, his crews will haul away the collected debris by truck.
The Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park had to cancel its annual Independence Day fireworks display but has rescheduled the event for Labor Day. The boat ramp and parking lot at the marina are temporarily closed and boaters seeking to launch their boats are redirected to the ramps at Paddle Boat Pond and Sledd Creek.
But according to the facility's social media posts, all lodge rooms and cottages along with the campground have reopened and the golf course should be open soon. The marina, marina parking lot and ramp remain closed for cleanup.
The NWS reported the EF-1 tornado that touched down at Moors Marina at approximately 5:13 p.m. reportedly traveled 0.1 miles, twisting and overturning a 50-yard section of the marina. The tornado lifted and overturned a boat docked in the marina and then lifted and twisted the dock. The entire marina structure of docks A and B were shifted several feet and pulled away from the shore, dislodging several spud poles that anchored the floating marina structure to the lake bottom. The max width of the tornado was 50 yards with estimated peak winds reaching 100 mph. Across the rest of Marshall County, scattered straight-line damage included broken tree limbs and uprooted trees.
Frazier was on the scene at Moors Marina Thursday when a team of skilled divers were underwater assessing the damage and preparing to assist in lifting the debris from the bottom of the marina, including the sunken boat. He said because they were already nearby, they were able to arrive within 30 minutes of the tornado.
A crane and other equipment were brought in on a barge to help with the demolition and cleanup process of untangling and hauling off the mangled dock and wreckage. He said the wreckage is so vast he anticipated having to haul it away by barge. The main goal, he said, was making the harbor safe for the holiday.
There were three steps to the process, Frazier said, which included removing the obstacles, cleaning the bottom of the lake and removing any loose debris that went airborne from the site.
And while the sight of the contorted dock was unsettling, Frazier said the tornado that struck Moors Resort and Marina in November 2005, which he also cleaned up after, left a much larger wake of destruction.
Mark Wood, who owns Moors Resort and Marina with his wife, Kathy, said in his 29 years at the resort there have been two fires (1996 and 2000) and this is the second tornado -- so this will be his fourth time to replace dock A. But it's "just stuff," he said, expressing gratitude that none of his employees or patrons was injured.
"Our main concern is the safety of our slip renters and the people who are coming to look at the damage. We're totally thankful nobody got hurt and after watching that video, I'm surprised people away from the dock didn't get hurt with the debris flying like it was," he said. "Once we established everyone was OK and everyone's property was stable and safe, then we've gotten back to business as usual, as much as we can under the circumstances."
But thankfully, Wood said, the damage was limited to the dock so the marina, the restaurant, the campground, the 37 cottages and the 24-room lodge were all spared and are up and running, business as usual. He said the boat rental fleet, which is also a large part of their business, is fine as well.
The boats that were in the section of dock A are likely all totaled, Wood said. Some of them have portions of the dock sitting on top of them and one sank to the bottom of the harbor. Some of the other boats in the marina had more minor damage from being banged around by the heavy winds. But those that managed to escape the storm mostly unscathed were able to be moved. Wood said he has assisted the owners with finding other marinas on Kentucky Lake until Moors Marina is repaired.
The timeline for fully repairing the damage is largely determined by the insurance company, Wood said. Frazier reported the timeline for full cleanup, because of the holiday, was an estimated 10 to 14 days. Wood said he's actively seeking bids for replacing the docks and his goal is to have the docks completed and ready for boats by the end of this year.
"The last tornado, which hit on Nov. 15, 2005, was much worse than this one and we were able to be back up and running 100 percent, campground and marina, within six months, with way more damage than this. We always compare everything to the last tornado," he said. "We keep positive attitudes. You just have to fix it and go on. It's just a bump in the road. No one got hurt so there's nothing to fret about."