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Remnants of Ike power through Kentucky; Richmond Road tree falls on driver

Lexington city crews are dealing with a backlog of calls on fallen trees, broken limbs and downed power lines as high winds powered through the state today.

Many homes and businesses are also without power, both in Lexington in throughout the state as high winds damages home and commercial buildings and even scrambled air traffic. In Lexington, a woman driving down Richmond Road was struck by a falling tree.

Most of the problems Sunday morning were in far Western Kentucky, and the largest concentration of damage is in that part of the state, according to the state Division of Emergency Management..

"Throughout the state, several small fires have been reported, apparently from downed power lines," said Buddy Rogers, a spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. He said those fires included barns and utility sheds, as well as brush and grass fires.

There's a lot of damage along the Ohio River corridor, he added.

Rogers suggested that people don't get out unless theynecessary..

HOW BAD WAS IT?

"All of Kentucky felt some sort of tropical disturbance-type winds," said Lauren Raymer, a meteorologist for WKYT-TV Channel 27 in Lexington. "In Lexington and all across the Ohio Valley ... all along the river from Evansville (Ind.) to Covington to Cincinnati, they had hurricane force, category one winds."

Lexington had a peak wind of 60 mph, while Covington had a peak wind of 70 mph, she said. Louisville experienced 75 mph wind at one point during the day.

"I can't remember winds being this strong and over such a broad area and causing so many problems," said Channel 27 chief meteorologist T.G. Shuck. "This is the direct result of just how large this hurricane was."

He said Louisville and Southern Indiana got a lot of structural damage.

Shuck said that most of the time when remnants of hurricanes come through this area, rain is what is expected, not high winds.

"We've had plenty of them (hurricane remnants) come through here, but most of the time what we look for out of them is rain, instead of wind," he said. "Unfortunately we got what we didn't need and didn't get what we needed."

"This thing really was packing a punch."

LEXINGTON

In Lexington, the high winds left the city debris-strewn.

"We're doing damage assessment now," said Tim Brandewie, the city's emergency management coordinator, said at 3:30 p.m.

Old Richmond Road is closed, blocked by fallen branches. One wall of a tobacco warehouse at the corner of Cedar and Plunkett streets in the South Hill area collapsed, crushing a car.

"Pretty much all of Cedar is closed indefinitely," Brandewie said.

The National Weather Service reported wind gusts up to 52 mph in Lexington.

Kentucky Utilities reported 40,000 customers without power across the state, most of that in Western Kentucky, said Cliff Feltham, a KU spokesman. Said Feltham: "Outages are widely scattered from one end of the state to the other."

In Lexington, about 4,000 customers were without power at 5 p.m., down from about 5,000 at 12 p.m. "It's scattered all over town," Feltham said. "So it's not going to be one switch to turn everyone back one. It's going to be little by little by little.

He said that, throughout KU's entire territory, about 73,000 customers were without power, mostly in Western Kentucky. Crews were working to restore power, but may not be able to make signicant gains until the winds die down Sunday evening. Power will likely be restored in Central Kentucky overnight, while restoring Western Kentucky's power may take until Monday.

The largest area of Lexington without power was around Arcadia Park near the University of Kentucky, and included Central Baptist Hospital, which was without primary power and was operating on backup generators.

Contrary to some reports circulating around Lexington, KU did not dispatch crews to help restore power in parts of hurricane-stricken Texas. "We have thrown all our forces into restoring power to all parts of Kentucky" said Feltham, the KU spokesman.

Nonethless the storm did not product the rains that were anticipated, said Mike Crow, metereologist with the National Weather Service in Louisville. Western Kentucky got light rain.

"We got the wind we didn't need," Crow said. "The rain we did need we missed out on."

Lexington is under a high wind warning until 5 p.m. as the remnants of Hurricane Ike pass to the state's north and northeast regions.

Owensboro was also hit hard by high winds. As of Sunday afternoon, 70 percent of the city was without power, and winds gusted to 73 mph.

In Lexington, gusty winds split the trunk of a huge tree on Richmond Road and half the trunk fell on a passing automobile. The driver was taken to a local hospital with non life threatening injuries, according to police on the scene.

The accident happened about noon. A city crew was out with chain saws and other equipment to remove the tree from the smashed car.

The tree was a street tree next to the Henry Clay estate.

Ann Hagan-Michel, executive director of Ashland, said the staff does regular inspections of the trees on the 14 acre urban estate. "We have over 400 trees that range in age from 300 years old to trees that went in in January," she said.

If a tree looks potentially threatening, "We try to act as quickly as possible," she said. "Trees are a blessing and a curse. When the winds get like this, we all say a little prayer."

Hagan-Michel said she was just relieved that the motorist was not more seriously injured.

AIRPORTS

Ted Bushelman, a spokesman for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, said that the airport's control tower was shut down between 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday because of high wind. Winds there reached 74 mph at one point.

Bushelman said that there is a policy to evacuate the control when winds reach a certain strength because some control tower workers were hurt several years ago when glass was broken out by high winds.

About 20 flights into the airport and 20 flights going out of the airport were cancelled, and a couple of others were diverted.

"Flights are taking off and landing, but it will take the airlines almost the whole evening to get planes back where they belong," he said about 6:20 p.m.

No damage was done to the control tower, which extends more than 200 feet high, however, several buildings sustained damage, Bushelman said.

"We had fences blow. We had a flight kitchen where part of the roof went," he said referring to Gate Gourmet.

Bushelman said he was at the airport for much of the day, but had to go home for a while because a large tree had fallen across his own home.

"Nobody got hurt; that's all I care about," he said.

KENTUCKY

Several Western Kentucky counties, including Ballard, Caldwell, Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman, Hopkins, Lyon and Meade, indicated they would declare local states of emergency due to storm damage, said a news release from the state Division of Emergency Management.

The State Emergency Operations Center and Department of Transportation Center in Frankfort were activated to support requests from communities.

State highway crews cleaned debris from roadways in several counties, including Jefferson, Bullitt, Oldham, Henry, Shelby and Franklin counties.

Many tree limbs blocked major roads, especially in Jefferson County in the Bardstown Road and Hurstbourne Road areas. Several houses and cars were damaged by fallen trees.

There were widespread power outages throughout the state's largest city and in the nearby communities of Simpsonville and Bagdad in Shelby County.

Several events in Louisville were canceled as winds reportedly reached speeds of 75 miles per hour, which constitutes a Category 1 hurricane.

On Sunday afternoon visitors at the Speed Museum on the University of Louisville campus were shepherded to a waiting area away from the exhibits but the museum soon afterwards decided to close for the day.

Traffic lights in several communities stopped functioning. Motorists were reminded to treat such intersections as four-way stops.

Harsh winds caused by remnants of Hurricane Ike are wreaking damage across Western Kentucky, and thousands in Louisville are without power. Jefferson County schools will be closed Monday.

State officials say seven counties in western Kentucky have declared states of emergency.

The heavy winds have also caused two Kentucky bridges over the Ohio River to close.

Officials briefly closed the William H. Natcher Bridge near Owensboro after it was struck by a barge that broke loose during the high winds, according to the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. The Coast Guard dislodged the barge, and the bridge was reopened after it was inspected by state transportation officials Sunday afternoon.

The Milton-Madison Bridge that spans the Ohio River at Madison, Ind., has also been closed as a precaution. The steel bridge was built in the 1920s.

Downed trees and power lines in the region have closed parts of several state roadways.

Kentucky's Division of Emergency Management says numerous small fires have been reported as a result of downed power lines. County and state crews are working on clearing up the damage.

The National Weather Service has issued wind advisories for much of the state.

Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson's office said more than 165,000 LG&E customers were without power as of 3 p.m.

Emergency Management says Ballard, Caldwell, Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman, Lyon and Union counties have declared a state of emergency. Jefferson County has also declared a state of emergency.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Traffic and travel conditions are available at www.511.ky.gov or at 511 from any land line or cell phone in the state.

The Associated Press and Herald-Leader staff writer Jack Brammer contributed information for this article.

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