18th Combat Weather Squadron Vet Reflects On December 2023 Clarksville Tornado


Not many can claim their first day on the job was their worst.

But Master Sergeant Janeen Hansen Lewis, Detachment 4 of the 18th Combat Weather Squadron, certainly can.

Assigned to the 101st Airborne Division Air Assault, the 12-year non-commissioned officer and trainee of Biloxi, Mississippi’s Keesler Air Force Base first arrived in Fort Campbell last June — still needing considerable training on local instrumentation and the lay of southwestern Kentucky and northwestern Tennessee.

In late November, she was certified to work the central desk at Campbell Army Airfield — one covered with digital clocks, laminated readouts, computer screens, landline phones and other related feeds.

On December 9, 2023, she and many others knew a severe weather outbreak was on the way, and she was on “severe weather standby.”

By the end of the day, she had the most important seat of all.

In civilian meteorology, forecasters and officials can hit a dartboard, using county warning areas to issue percentages and chances to the public for certain weather events.

In military meteorology, forecasters and officials must hit the bullseye, and can only issue either a “go” or “no go” for incoming and outgoing flights and on-ground personnel based on timing.

For Lewis and the rest of the detachment, this “bullseye” is Fort Campbell proper — 10 nautical miles in any direction from the airstrip, or roughly 550 square miles.

Using a radar located just outside of Trenton, combined with other comprehensive data from the National Weather Service in Paducah and Nashville, Lewis had to make the call between watches and warnings for the entire afternoon — alerting the heart of Montgomery County about potential weather dangers.

Her warning, which was just ahead of the National Weather Service, foretold of a developing EF-3 tornado that formed in northern Clarksville around 2:41 PM, roared through Exit 1, made its way to southern Allensville and finally dissipated in Auburn a little more than an hour later.

Covering 41 ¼ miles, it was 600 yards at its widest, injured 61 people and killed four people in its path — while causing millions in damage. And though it never touched Fort Campbell proper, it certainly impacted civilians and military families not housed on post.

By December 29, 2023, military officials confirmed there were 52 displaced households and 139 soldiers with dependents impacted — down from the 354 households the day of the storm.

Lewis said she knows lives were spared through the team’s meteorological efforts.

Fort Campbell weather alerts come via text, e-mail, phone calls and social media, as well as installation sirens, a 30-hour forecast and a 5-day forecast online.

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