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Weather service: Damaging winds weren't tornadoes

Straight-line winds, not tornadoes, appear to be responsible for the extensive damage to many Kentucky communities earlier this week.

National Weather Service investigators said straight-line winds ripped through Garrard, Whitley and Knox counties Wednesday afternoon.

The winds were part of a fast-moving severe storm system that blew through the state, downing trees and knocking out power to more than 140,000 customers.

Public Service Commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovych told The Associated Press that 13,927 homes and businesses remained dark Friday night from the Jan. 27 ice storm, and an additional 7,443 utility customers were without power Friday because of Wednesday's wind storm.

On Friday morning, Kentucky Utilities reported about 1,200 customers, scattered throughout the state, were without power. Counties with more than 100 KU customers without power included Knox, Laurel and Whitley. Fayette was down to fewer than 65 customers.

Most customers were expected to see power restored Friday, but some would have to wait until the weekend, company spokesman Cliff Feltham said.

The weather service continued Friday to investigate reports of a possible tornado in Breathitt County near Jackson, said Shawn Harley, the meteorologist in charge at the weather service's Jackson office.

One man reported seeing a tornado touch down on a hill near Jackson, Harley said. A woman said she saw the rotation of a funnel cloud, the Jackson fire chief said Thursday.

"We will be looking into the reports around Jackson today, but all the damage I've seen is consistent with straight-line winds," Harley said.

Breathitt and Martin county schools, as well as Williamsburg Independent, remained closed Friday.

The damage in Whitley and Knox was consistent with straight-line winds of 70 to 100 mph, according to the weather service.

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