At least 2 tornadoes touch down in Kentucky

damage worst near shelby-Henry line

shopkins@herald-leader.comMarch 1, 2011 

The National Weather Service has confirmed that at least two tornadoes touched down in Kentucky on Monday as a cold front brought high winds and heavy rain to the state.

Meteorologist Tom Reaugh said an EF3, or severe, tornado packing 140 mph winds struck southern Henry County near Eminence on Monday morning.

An EF3 tornado has winds of 136 to 165 mph, causing severe damage, according to the weather service.

Reaugh said a second tornado started in Southern Indiana on Monday morning and jumped the Ohio River into Jefferson County before spinning into Oldham County.

The weather Service planned to survey damage in Garrard, Taylor and Lincoln counties on Tuesday to determine whether a tornado had touched down in those counties, said meteorologist Linda Gilbert of the National Weather Service in Louisville.

There were reports of downed trees and power lines and roofs blown off in Lincoln County, and reports of downed trees and barn damage in Taylor County, according to the weather service's Web site.

Storm damage appeared to be most extensive in Eminence, near the Henry-Shelby county line.

Three homes near Eminence, northeast of Louisville, were destroyed, and officials said at least two people were treated for minor injuries.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Michael Webb told The Associated Press that two of the houses were destroyed down to their foundations and that a third had just two exterior walls standing Monday morning.

"The rest of it is gone," Webb said.

He said all indications are that a tornado touched down, including the fact that two houses within 100 yards of the destroyed houses were not damaged.

"That suggests it is an isolated event," Webb said. "We also have debris here that's not from here."

Several counties, including Fayette, Bourbon, Madison and Jessamine, were included in a tornado watch early Monday.

Lexington received 1.45 inches of rain from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 p.m. Monday, breaking the city's record for that day's rainfall. Gilbert said the previous record for Feb. 28, 1.3 inches, was set in 1987.

Tuesday is expected to be sunny, with highs around the state in the upper 40s. Lows are forecast in the mid-30s Tuesday night. Highs for the rest of the week are expected to be in the 50s.

Buddy Rogers, a spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, said that about a dozen homes in Boyd County, in the northeast corner of the state, were damaged but that there were no reports of injuries there.

With several inches of rain in recent weeks, the ground has gotten soft, so additional rain is making trees susceptible to being blown over by high winds, Rogers said. Trees could take power lines with them when they fall, creating a hazard, Rogers said.

The weather also forced schools to change schedules.

Lincoln County dismissed students at 1 p.m. because of storm damage, said Bruce Smith, director of pupil personnel.

The storm damaged the roof of Lincoln County Middle School; destroyed a storage shed at the high school; and damaged some dugouts, bleachers, fences and lights at the sports fields.

High winds tore a hole in the roof of the middle school, allowing water to come inside, and knocked out power.

Karen Hatter, interim superintendent of Lincoln County school district, said water leaked into the cafeteria and other areas.

The county's emergency management coordinator asked that students, teachers and staff leave the school because water had gotten into some electrical fixtures.

"They basically ordered us to evacuate," Hatter said.

Middle school students spent the morning at the high school before classes let out early.

The middle school, which has 700 students, is on the same campus as the county high school and a center for students in sixth grade.

The wind also downed a tree near Crab Orchard Elementary School, knocking out power for a while. Students there were bused to the high school for a time Monday morning before power was restored, Smith said.

In Louisville, Jefferson County public schools delayed opening for two hours, and some Catholic schools followed suit.

Lisa Deffendall, a spokeswoman for Fayette County Public Schools, said classes in Lexington were not affected by the weather.

Herald-Leader staff writers Bill Estep and Karla Ward and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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