Storm damage at Kentucky marinas is clear, but extent remains unknown

Roofs over covered docks collapsed or were weighed down onto a number of boats at marinas on Lake Cumberland because of ice and snow from Friday’s storm. In this photo, a slip cover rests on a large boat at Lee's Ford Resort Marina in Pulaski County on Jan. 25, 2016.
Roofs over covered docks collapsed or were weighed down onto a number of boats at marinas on Lake Cumberland because of ice and snow from Friday’s storm. In this photo, a slip cover rests on a large boat at Lee's Ford Resort Marina in Pulaski County on Jan. 25, 2016.

The summer playground at Lake Cumberland took a major hit from winter over the weekend, with the weight of ice and snow from Friday’s storm damaging or destroying covers over hundreds of boat slips, according to marina operators.

Marina operators were trying Monday to assess the extent of the damage, line up crews to begin clearing collapsed roofs, and plan for rebuilding.

An undetermined number of boats were damaged, some of which were pushed underwater. Boat owners were awaiting word about the status of their vessels.

At Lee’s Ford Resort Marina in Pulaski County, owner J.D. Hamilton said there was damage to 247 of about 350 covered slips.

Of those, the roofs over more than 100 slips collapsed in a tangle of metal. At others, the weight of ice and snow pushed down the floating slip covers on top of boats.

“It’s the worst damage we’ve ever had at the dock,” Hamilton said Monday. “It looks like a bomb went off.”

The Army Corps of Engineers had not received damage reports from all nine commercial marinas currently open on the giant lake, but most had at least some damage, said Rob Hill, a ranger with the agency.

The marinas that reported damage to the Corps or on social media were Conley Bottom and Beaver Creek in Wayne County; Indian Hills Resort / Alligator II Marina and Jamestown Marina in Russell County; Lee’s Ford, Burnside Marina and Wolf Creek Marina in Pulaski County; and Grider Hill in Clinton County.

Bill Jasper, president of State Dock in Russell County, said Monday that there was no real damage there.

There was a concern that rain forecast for late Tuesday would add to the weight on the slip covers, however.

“Absent any rain, I think we’ll be fine,” Jasper said.

Green River Marina on Green River Lake in Taylor County said on Facebook that it sustained significant damage.

The extent of the damage to boats on Lake Cumberland was not clear Monday because many remained covered with debris.

“A lot of unknowns under those damaged roofs,” Hill said.

Jasper said a houseboat at Jamestown Marina sank.

A state environmental response team went to the lake but was having trouble getting to ramps in some spots because of road conditions, said Dick Brown, spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

There was a sheen of diesel fuel visible at Jamestown Marina, but the source and extent were not known at midday, Brown said.

Hill, the Corps of Engineers ranger, said the agency had not received reports of environmental problems caused by the collapse of slip covers.

Terry Bell, manager of Beaver Creek Resort, said there was some snow on the covered slips from earlier last week before a layer of ice fromed early Friday, followed by at least a foot of snow.

Bell said one complete dock cover collapsed at the marina, along with parts of three others.

“That was more weight than we could deal with,” Bell said.

Hamilton said workers at Lee’s Ford tried to use fire hoses and scrapers to clear snow from the slip covers as it fell Friday, but they couldn’t stay ahead of it before he had them climb off the roofs for safety reasons.

Hamilton said the structures covering the slips are built to withstand a certain weight load, but usually the snow comes more slowly, allowing time to clear it.

More than a foot of snow fell in 12 to 14 hours Friday in his area, Hamilton said.

“It was just a freak storm,” he said.

On Monday, Hamilton had workers using spray hoses and boards to push snow and ice off the roof of slips for awhile, but he had them stop after the cover collapsed on a section of dock.

No one was working on that section at the time.

Owners were hoping for warmer weather this week to help with the process of clearing ice and snow from their docks.

It could take several days before marina owners are able to fully assess the damage.

Some of the floating slip covers will rise back into place as the snow melts or is removed, but operators will have to assess whether structures that twisted or listed are still sound, Hamilton said.

The floating covers at Lee’s Ford are made of metal posts supporting a wood structure covered by metal.

Clearing the debris will be a slow, tough job because much of the work will have to be done from boats or barges.

Marina owners asked boat owners not to come and check on their vessels. Some roads were still slick, and docks were unstable and unsafe, according to statements from several marinas.

Walkways at some dock sections were underwater.

In addition to the work needed to clear debris and have covers built or repaired, many boats might need repairs.

That could keep owners off the water for some time and hurt business around the lake, some people said.

“This lake is a big part of the economy,” said Steve Robertson, who keeps a 32-foot cruiser named Troubadour at Lee’s Ford.

Robertson said his boat was in a slip where the cover collapsed. He didn’t know Monday if it had been damaged or sunk.

“My boat’s in a rat’s nest of metal,” said Robertson, former chairman of the state Republican Party. “Had a lot of good times on it. I hope I can have some more, but I’m not optimistic.”

Greg Coker of Harrodsburg said he didn’t think his 27-foot cruiser at Lee’s Ford was damaged, but boats owned by several friends were.

The community of boaters that congregates at Lee’s Ford and other marinas on weekends is tight-knit, so even people whose boats came through the weekend unscathed were feeling the loss for others.

“These were people’s homes” many weekends, Coker said. “It’s just a disaster.”