Fayette County

High winds add to ice storm misery

At least 150,000 homes and businesses across Kentucky lost power Wednesday because of high winds.

By 4 p.m. Thursday the number had been reduced to about 54,100, according to Andrew Melnykovych, a spokesman for the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

The windstorm hampered efforts to restore electricity to customers who lost power because of last month's major ice storm.

By 4 p.m. Thursday, 26,200 customers who lost power because of the ice storm were still without power. Nearly all of those customers were in Western Kentucky.

Wednesday's wind and rain storms caused scattered damage, including downed power lines, flipped tractor-trailers, transformer fires and roofs ripped away from buildings.

WVLK's AM radio broadcast in Lexington was knocked out, but was restored by Thursday afternoon.

Several schools closed or delayed start times Thursday.

Whitley and Knox counties were reported under states of emergency Wednesday night, and the National Guard was sent there to help with traffic control and debris removal.

Some areas that escaped January's ice storm were hit by Wednesday's weather. Others were left in the dark for a second time, Melnykovych said. The ice storm cut power to 770,000 customers at its peak.

"I'm sure people's patience is running about as thin as it can get, and understandably so," he said.

At the University of the Cumberlands, wind tore off the psychology building's roof, Williamsburg Fire Chief James Privett said. Power was out at a nursing home and some houses in Williamsburg, he said.

In Breathitt County, 3,600 customers were without power, and residents were told that it might not be until Saturday evening or Sunday before power is restored, Jackson Fire Chief Roger Friley said. A shelter was open at the city fire station, Friley said.

There were reports of possible injuries in Trimble, Johnson, Hopkins and Whitley counties and of possible tornadoes in Breathitt, Garrard, Knox and Whitley counties, said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

The National Weather Service was expected to investigate tornado reports later, Rogers said.

In Breathitt, an older woman said she saw the rotation of a funnel cloud, the fire chief said. Officially, it wasn't clear whether it was a tornado or straight-line wind, he said. Roofs were ripped off trailers, and trees were on top of two dozen homes, he said.

The worst damage appeared to be in counties near the Daniel Boone National Forest, Rogers said.

In Central Kentucky, the highest wind gusts were reported at 59 mph, just south of Frankfort, said Tom Reaugh, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Louisville.

In Fayette County, 2,570 Kentucky Utilities customers were without power about 10 a.m. Thursday, significantly less than the 6,100 without power at 10 p.m. Wednesday. By 4 p.m. Thursday only about 450 Fayette County customers had no electricity, according to KU. At that time, KU customers without power in Madison County numbered fewer than 60. In Scott County, the figure was less than 80. Clark County had fewer than 75 and Jessamine County had fewer than 70.

There were reports of damage in Lancaster and significant damage to buildings in Russell County, Reaugh said.

In Pulaski County, wind ripped the roof off of a law office, blew it across six lanes of U.S. 27 and took out a utility poll on the other side of the road, said Tiger Robinson, the county's public safety director.

In Western Kentucky, three tractor-trailers were blown over, two on the Pennyrile Parkway and one on the Audubon Parkway, Kentucky State Police said. One driver suffered a broken collarbone, but the other two were uninjured, police said.

Three of the harder-hit counties there included Pike, Floyd and Perry, he said.