LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Punishing weather that spawned late-winter tornadoes and a summer drought has been voted Kentucky's top story of 2012.
Kentucky was hit by a cluster of tornadoes in an early March outbreak that killed 23 people, left thousands of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed and inflicted millions of dollars in damage.
A twister packing winds up to 140 mph tore through parts of eastern Kentucky. The storm killed six people in Morgan County and four more in neighboring Johnson and Lawrence counties. Other tornadoes struck from southern to northern Kentucky.
The town of West Liberty took a direct hit, its small downtown left smashed. In the ensuing months, homes were repaired or rebuilt. Government offices and businesses reopened. Churches posted signs vowing to rebuild.
"If the resilience of the people wasn't there, nothing else would happen," said Tim Conley, the local county judge-executive.
That was followed by a brutal summer drought, made worse by stretches of record-breaking triple-digit heat. Kentucky's corn crop wilted, resulting in a statewide average yield that was less than half the prior year's output.
Still, the farming sector showed its resilience. Despite the dry spell, agricultural economists predicted record farm cash receipts surpassing $5 billion for the first time in the state. Strong commodity prices and crop insurance payments helped offset yield losses.
The one-two punch of the tornado outbreak and the drought was selected as the biggest story in Kentucky this year in voting by subscribers and staff for The Associated Press.
Kentucky's No. 2 story was another championship banner being hoisted at Rupp Arena.
The University of Kentucky men's basketball team won the NCAA championship in the spring, led by a talented crop of underclassmen who then took their talents to the NBA. The Wildcats defeated Kansas 67-59 to win the school's eighth national title and first since 1998.
More than 90 arrests were made in Lexington following unruly celebrations on and around the Kentucky campus.
Kentucky's night in the national political spotlight and a new effort to reduce addiction to prescription painkillers tied for the No. 3 story.
State lawmakers took aim at curbing prescription drug abuse by passing a law that bolstered prescription monitoring and focused on pain management clinics. The action recognized the pervasiveness of improper pill popping and the suffering it causes in a state where more people die from drug overdoses than car crashes.
The law requires all new pain management clinics to be owned by licensed medical providers and to have medical directors in charge. It also requires all doctors, dentists, optometrists, registered nurses and podiatrists who write prescriptions to use the state's prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER.
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