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Kentucky Declares Emergency After Deadly Weekend Storm

A massive storm pummeled the state with strong winds and heavy rain, causing widespread destruction, impassable roads and the deaths of four residents. The state, 14 counties and five cities declared a state of emergency.

A swath of high winds and heavy rain pummeled much of Kentucky over the Memorial Day weekend causing power outages, broad destruction, impassable roads and claiming four lives.

It was part of a punishing weather system that stretched from Texas to West Virginia and has killed at least 21 as it churned toward the East Coast Sunday, May 26.

Lexington and much of Central Kentucky dodged the worst of the violent storms. There were some power outages, downed branches and pounding rain, but residents here missed much of the destruction seen around the commonwealth.

“Last night, many families and communities were not safe,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at his Memorial Day news conference. “We had devastating storms that hit almost the entire state.”

Among the dead: A 67-year-old woman in Mercer County; a woman in Hardin County who was 62; a 48-year-old woman in Hopkins County; and a 34-year-old man in Jefferson County. Beshear did not release their names.

Mercer County Coroner David Ransdell said the death there happened when a tree fell on a house, causing the roof to collapse into a bedroom and killing a 67-year-old woman in bed. Ransdell pronounced the woman dead at the scene at 1:15 a.m. Monday.

The woman’s husband was with her. He was injured and was taken to the hospital but his injuries were not life-threatening, according to a release from Brad Cox, the county emergency manager.

Louisville Mayor Mayor Craig Greenberg announced the death there Sunday afternoon. “Louisville, I’m sad to report we’ve had one fatality following the severe weather that just moved through the area and some structural damage reported,” Greenberg said on the social media platform X.

“Please join me in holding this family in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time — may their memory be a blessing.”

The death in Louisville happened around noon Sunday when a man was hit by a tree on Hobbs Station Road near Anchorage. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

On Monday, Beshear said there were no storm victims unaccounted for to his knowledge.

More than 174,000 people were still without power in the state Monday morning as crews worked to clear downed trees knocked onto power lines by high winds. Crews also were working to clear debris blocking roads.

Four nursing homes in Western Kentucky were running on generators, and telephone service to several Kentucky State Police posts were out, forcing the use of backup numbers. State police had set up alternate numbers for people to use.

Beshear said the storms spun up several tornadoes, including one on the ground in Western Kentucky for about 40 miles. The state was waiting on confirmation from the National Weather Service on how many tornadoes touched down.

The Washington Post reported Monday afternoon a “dire tornado emergency,” essentially, the highest-tier tornado warning the National Weather Service can issue, was issued in Kentucky’s Caldwell, Hopkins and Lyons counties.

Beshear said the long-track tornado just missed Mayfield, the Graves County seat that was pummeled by tornadoes in December 2021, and also passed near the Kentucky State Penitentiery in Eddyville and Dawson Springs, another city devastated in December 2021.

Beshear said at least one family whose house was destroyed in the 2021 tornadoes had lost their home again in the weekend storms.

Charleston, which is near Dawson Springs, was among those hit hardest by the weekend severe weather, Beshear said. Rescuers had to cut through trees for miles in order to get in and check on people.

Eric Gibson, head of Kentucky Emergency Management, said it would take several days to get a full accounting of the damage. “We do have Kentuckians across the state who are suffering,” Gibson said.

In addition to a statewide emergency Beshear declared, he said 14 counties and five cities had declared emergencies. The declaration by Beshear allowed activation of the Kentucky National Guard, which had crews out helping clear debris in hard-hit areas.

USA TODAY reported that 700 line workers and related personnel will roll into the state to help restore power. In addition to the deaths, there were reports of injuries. Officials did not provide a count, but Beshear mentioned one who was critically injured.

Reports to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma cited a non-life threatening injury to a person in Clay County that happened when a tree fell on a shelter at a park. Beshear said a girl riding her bike escaped injury when high wind knocked a tree over on her as she was riding her bike.

“There’s a bit of a hand of God in that story,” the governor said.

He said the severe weather caused a dock at Dale Hollow Lake in Southern Kentucky to break loose and caused a fuel spill.

The Red Cross had opened a shelter in Clay County, and there were at least six people there. Pennyrile State Resort Park will also have rooms for people displaced by the storms, Beshear said.

The National Weather Service had received a report that an apartment building in Manchester was evacuated after a tree hit it.

Beshear said when state police posts lost phone service as a result of storm damage, 911 calls rolled over to other agencies. He said he didn’t think the outages hurt emergency response.

Reports posted by the Storm Prediction Center indicated how widespread the damage was in Kentucky. The center posted a running list of preliminary reports through the day Sunday as severe weather moved from west to east.

The list included incidents from more than 50 counties from the Mississippi River to far Eastern Kentucky

©2024 Lexington Herald-Leader. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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