Prior to January 26th, 2009, we had all been watching a storm system that developed to the southwest of Kentucky in Oklahoma.

Coupled with the information we were getting from, among other sources, Eyewitness News Chief Meteorologist Wayne Hart, it was looking like a serious winter storm was in our near future. But, really, we had no idea. Sure, we already knew to expect freezing rain; it's an unfortunate possibility in winter, as we know. We just didn't have any idea how crippling AND deadly that freezing rain would become. In all, 10 states--Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia, Ohio, and Arkansas were the others--felt the effects of the storm.

Looking Back at the 2009 Ice Storm

The National Weather Service maintains records of all major weather events that occur in this country. Here were its ice accumulation totals once the storm had come to an end.

National Weather Service
National Weather Service

It was that storm that provided a template for all us in terms of learning how much ice it takes to really do serious damage.

More than one-half inch of ice is considered a crippling ice storm. This much ice can cause severe damage to trees and power lines, often resulting in numerous downed trees and widespread power outages that might last for days. The most destructive ice storms produce ice amounts of an inch or greater.

Kentucky Bore the Worst Brunt of This Deadly Storm

As you can see, MOST of Kentucky was indeed "crippled" by the storm, with about two-thirds of the Commonwealth receiving at least a half an inch of ice.

More than 600,000 homes across Kentucky lost power--historically, it remains the state's largest outage on record--but, of course, the worst result of this horrific storm was the loss of life. All tolled, there were 65 deaths associated with the ice storm, 35 of them in Kentucky. And the majority of those deaths were linked to carbon monoxide poisoning.

So far, we haven't experienced ANYTHING like this winter or during ANY winter since it" happened 15 years ago. But the storm's impact will be felt, or at least evoked, for decades. Whenever a winter storm approaches and freezing rain is a part of it, how many meteorologists that you've seen have uttered the phrase, "But it won't be anything like 2009."

Since that fateful weather disaster, that's been among the most comforting phrases I have ever heard.

The Worst Owensboro Storms I Can Remember

Owensboro doesn't get bad storms very often, but when it does, wow!

Gallery Credit: Dave Spencer

LOOK: The most expensive weather and climate disasters in recent decades

Stacker ranked the most expensive climate disasters by the billions since 1980 by the total cost of all damages, adjusted for inflation, based on 2021 data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The list starts with Hurricane Sally, which caused $7.3 billion in damages in 2020, and ends with a devastating 2005 hurricane that caused $170 billion in damage and killed at least 1,833 people. Keep reading to discover the 50 of the most expensive climate disasters in recent decades in the U.S.

Gallery Credit: KATELYN LEBOFF

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