Strong winds, possibly a tornado, ripped through Madison County just after 5 p.m. Friday, killing one person and causing a "significant number" of injuries, county emergency management director Carl Richards said.
Lonnie Hall stood amid the toppled walls of his four-year-old home and the shattered glass from a destroyed minivan that had been full of children, looking at the wreckage of his central Kentucky neighborhood.
Not far away, a woman's body was found in a pond. Hers was the lone death officials were blaming on the unconfirmed tornado that touched down Friday, ripping the roof off a fire station, sending a motor home onto a house, flipping railway cars and barely missing an elementary school holding a spring carnival.
"It sounded like an airplane taking off, but I knew it wasn't," Hall said. "The wind start picking up, and I yelled to everyone, 'Let's go to the basement.' In 10 or 15 seconds, it was over with."
Michael Bryant, assistant deputy emergency management director for Madison County, said officials weren't releasing the name of the woman who died, confirming only that she was found in the pond.
Dozens of houses and other structures were destroyed or damaged in the Kirksville community of Richmond in Madison County, about 20 miles south-southeast of Lexington.
Fifty homes were significantly damaged or destroyed, Richards said.
Madison County emergency management said winds might have reached 80 mph.
Crews were working through the night assessing the damage. Richards said he could not provide the total number of injuries; he estimated that 500 people were directly affected by the storm.
The wind hurt several counties, but Madison County, particularly south of Richmond, appeared hardest hit.
There were reports of a tornado near Kirksville and near Duncannon Lane. The National Weather Service will examine debris patterns to determine whether a tornado touched down, but it won't make much difference to those who lived through it.
After the wind abated, Lois Moore of Richmond walked along Lancaster Road over downed power lines and snapped tree branches and past debris from crushed homes and destroyed vehicles.
She was driving through Kirksville when the wind started howling.
"It looked like a house flew over my car, and all I could do was pray," Moore said.
Nicole Blair of Berea rushed back to Kirksville after spending much of the day there riding her horse. She found her new trailer — on which she owes $2,500 — wrapped around a broken tree.
Fire crews carried 83-year-old Jack Johnson from his home on Lancaster Road in a wheelchair.
With the driveway blocked by a large tree and other debris, Johnson had to be lifted over a concrete wall.
But he was in good spirits. He even laughed.
"I'm telling you, that was something," he said.
Johnson was on the bottom floor of the house with his caregiver when he heard shingles being blown off.
His daughter, Betty Collins, was in Somerset visiting her grandchildren when she heard her home, not far from where her father lives, had been destroyed.
"I cried and screamed the whole way coming," Collins said. "I couldn't hardly drive. We're lucky we all lived through it."
She shook her head before heading into her father's home to salvage some personal belongings.
Homes were also damaged east of Richmond, in Waco.
In Garrard County, six barns and a house were destroyed, said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the state emergency management department.
Flooding was reported in Garrard, Jackson, Marion and Taylor counties.
In Perry County, officials said the westbound lanes of the Hal Rogers Parkway were closed about 7 p.m. because of a low-hanging power line knocked down by the storm.
The Letcher County sheriff's department reported that trees were knocked down, some blocking roadways. Most of the debris had been cleared by 7 p.m., deputies said.
"Devastated, shocked," said Hall's son, Wade, who was still working late Friday carrying furniture out of the destroyed house. "You lose everything you work for."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Herald-Leader Staff Writer Jim Warren contributed to this story.