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

Lexington caught some of the high-winded remnants of Hurricane Ike Sunday, leaving the city strewn with debris, thousands of residents without power and one woman in the hospital after a tree fell on her car as she drove down Richmond Road.

Western Kentucky and Louisville were hit particularly hard by the high winds, which weather experts said were rare in Kentucky.

A Shelby County boy, Frederick Wilson, 10, died Sunday afternoon after he was hit by a falling limb broken off a tree by high winds.

The accident happened about 12:30 p.m. on Connor Station Road in Simpsonville, 7 miles west of Shelbyville. Frederick was the grandson of the late Fred Wiche, who was widely known as The Weekend Gardener on WHAS television and radio in Louisville, said Shelby County deputy coroner Janet Morris.

Morris, also an administrative assistant for Shelby County Emergency Medical Services, said that a Shelbyville doctor and his daughter received minor injuries, mainly cuts, when a tree fell on their car and knocked out its windshield as they were traveling down Main Street. They were treated at Jewish Hospital and released, she said.

Three deaths were reported in the Cincinnati area — a woman who died when a tree hit her family room, and a couple riding motorcycles. For tens of thousands of customers in Louisville and Cincinnati, power might not be restored for a week. A Louisville Gas & Electric spokesman called the outage there the worst in 30 years.

Most of the wind-related problems and the largest concentration of damage Sunday morning were in far Western Kentucky, according to the state Division of Emergency Management. Gov. Steve Beshear last night declared a state of emergency in Kentucky.

"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, and Covington hit 70 mph, she said. Louisville experienced a 75-mph wind at one point.

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

Shuck said that generally when remnants of hurricanes pass through this area, rain is expected, not high winds. Said Shuck: "Unfortunately, we got what we didn't need and didn't get what we needed. This thing really was packing a punch."

In Lexington, one wall of a tobacco warehouse at Cedar and Plunkett streets in the South Hill area collapsed, crushing a truck. A tree also fell onto a car at the corner of High Street and Fontaine Road.

Kentucky Utilities reported 40,000 customers without power across the state, most of that in Western Kentucky, said Cliff Feltham, a KU spokesman. At one time Sunday Lexington had 5,000 customers without power; late last night, that number was down to about 1,500.

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

Around noon Sunday, winds split a huge tree and half its trunk fell on an automobile passing on Richmond Road. The driver was taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said. The tree was on the street next to the Henry Clay estate.

Ann Hagan-Michel, executive director of Ashland, said the staff regularly inspects the trees on the 14-acre urban estate. "Trees are a blessing and a curse," she said. "When the winds get like this, we all say a little prayer."

The winds also scrambled Kentucky air traffic.

Ted Bushelman, a spokesman for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, said the control tower was shut down between 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday because of high winds. Bushelman said that the control tower is evacuated during particularly high winds because some workers were hurt several years ago when glass was broken out by winds. About 20 flights into the airport and 20 flights going out were canceled, and a couple of others were diverted.

No damage was done to the control tower, but, Bushelman said, "Part of the roof's gone off the Delta hangar. Part of the roof is coming off on Concourse C."

Tree limbs blocked major roads in Jefferson County, especially in the Bardstown Road and Hurstborne Road areas. Jefferson County schools are closed Monday.

Two Kentucky bridges over the Ohio River were closed because of the winds.

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 Sunday afternoon. A bridge at Madison, Ind., was also closed.

A live electric line fell across the Mountain Parkway in Wolfe County, near Campton, about 4 p.m. The roadway in that area was closed, and traffic was diverted for about two hours for repairs.