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Tornado touches down in Louisville, limited damage reported in Central Kentucky

As art teacher Barbara Sprawls tried to quiet students, fifth-grader Dakota Diehl took cover along with other students at Kenwood Elementary in Louisville on Tuesday morning during a tornado warning.
As art teacher Barbara Sprawls tried to quiet students, fifth-grader Dakota Diehl took cover along with other students at Kenwood Elementary in Louisville on Tuesday morning during a tornado warning. ASSOCIATED PRESS

Powerful spring-like storms spawned a winter tornado that slammed into the Louisville metropolitan area Tuesday morning, uprooting trees, yanking down power lines and damaging buildings.

The storm was blamed for tossing two tractor-trailers off a freeway.

Storm warnings stretched into south-central Kentucky but limited damage was reported.

No deaths were reported as the tornado cut a four-mile swath through a suburban area late Tuesday morning. But police said one person was killed later in a chain-reaction crash while traffic was diverted from where the two semis overturned.

Thousands were left without power in the area, though utility crews made quick inroads in restoring electricity.

The tornado packed winds of 95 mph, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sharp.

The twister touched down in a mostly residential area, though it's dotted with businesses.

"There were a lot of people at work during the time," said local MetroSafe spokeswoman Jody Johnson. "So luckily they weren't at home and not anyone was injured."

The tornado touched down near a busy intersection in northeastern Jefferson County and took a northeast track before going aloft, he said. It touched down again about a mile away and crossed the freeway where the two tractor-trailers overturned.

The storm toppled trees that clogged roads and landed on buildings. Portions of roofs were peeled away.

The traffic death occurred a couple of hours after the storm when a "bus-type vehicle" rear-ended a car, setting off a chain reaction, said Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman Alicia Smiley. A passenger in the first car hit died at the scene, and the driver was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, she said.

The driver of the bus-type vehicle was taken to a hospital for observation, and the drivers of two other cars hit also suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Smiley said.

No charges were filed in the wreck, she said.

Johnson said one of the semi drivers told emergency officials that high winds knocked over his rig.

She said the other semi driver had to be removed from the truck and was taken to a hospital with possible injuries. One tractor-trailer ended up in the median and the other in a ditch. The southbound lanes of Interstate 265 were shut down because the road was strewn with debris.

The fast-moving storm triggered a series of tornado warnings ahead of an expected sharp drop in temperatures from the balmy 60s in the morning to the more seasonal 20s by Tuesday night.

The Louisville area appeared to be among the hardest hit in Kentucky, though storm warnings stretched into south-central and Eastern Kentucky.

"Anymore it's not rare at all," National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Callahan said of the spring-like storms in winter. "We have it almost every year lately."

In Georgetown, six children were in a child-care program when a portion of the roof blew off. No one was hurt, said Robin Allen, director of the program called Center of Town. The children, who attended the program after kindergarten, were evacuated to the Scott County Health Department.

"They were calm because we were calm," Allen said.

The Center of Town program has as many as 60 children in the afternoon.

In Frankfort, the winds blew the roofs off some storage buildings on U.S. 421 South, causing their walls to cave in, said Franklin County Emergency Management Director Deron Rambo.

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