Kentucky town bears worst of storm

BY GEORGE PIPER | OWENSBORO, Ky | January 5, 1999


A freak tornado -- the first in the town's 200-year history -- damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in Owensboro, Ky., as a wave of strong storms traveled across the south central U.S. Monday.

More than 100 homes were destroyed, 250 severely damaged, and another 500

moderately damaged. The campus of Kentucky Wesleyan College was also

devastated.

But no lives were lost. "Miraculously, no one was killed and injuries

were relatively minor," said Stan Hankins, associate director for

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).

Emergency officials said the town's advance warning system -- and people's

decision to heed that warning -- saved many lives.

But damages were significant, and response officials are still assessing

needs.

Hankins added that PDA has been in contact with the Presbytery of Western

Kentucky, and that the Crayne Presbyterian Church was damaged and another

Presbyterian church lost its roof.

An initial $10,000 grant from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering is

being sent to the Presbytery of Western Kentucky for relief and recovery

efforts, he said.

The same system spawned tornadoes or high winds in Mississippi, produced

damaging winds in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri and caused

minor flooding in Ohio in the first major storm of 2000.

But Owensboro sustained the brunt of the damage as the F3 twister cut a

path across the town of 54,000. Officials there say electrical power may

not be restored for five days as utility crews work 'round the clock.

Through mid-afternoon Tuesday, some 5,000 homes remained without

electricity.

The mid-afternoon storm rolled across rural Daviess County before

crashing into Owensboro's southwest corner where it did most of its

damage, according to Harvey Henderson, public information officer for

Daviess County Emergency Management. At least half of the 500 homes with

significant damage likely will be total losses, he added. Officials are

still assessing damage in Owensboro and the surrounding area.

Restoring power is the primary concern now as city streets are littered

with downed power lines. Emergency officials want people to stay out of

the neighborhoods until the utility situation is resolved. "There's a lot of

people trying to take care of their belongings inside of their homes,"

Henderson said. "We're considering all (downed) power lines live at this

point."

The American Red Cross established a shelter at the Owensboro

Sportscenter. Some 100 people were there on Tuesday afternoon, and

officials are prepared to open a second shelter if necessary.

In nearby Webster County, at least 30 houses and mobile homes sustained

major damage or were destroyed, and four people were injured, mainly

near the unincorporated community of Diamond, said Archie Benton, the

county's assistant coordinator for disaster emergency services and

Providence police chief.

Some homeowners carried no insurance, Benton added, and power was still

out in some areas at noon Tuesday. Survivors, county work crews, and

volunteers worked Tuesday to sift through rubble and remove debris.

They did it with snow flurries falling around them, just one day after

Webster County experienced an unseasonably high temperature of 72 degrees.

Salvation Army and Red Cross units established relief centers there, he

said.

Officials in Mississippi continued assessments Tuesday as seven counties

reported structural damage of some sort, said Clif Lusk, lead public

information officer for the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Two unconfirmed tornadoes were reported Monday, damaging homes and

businesses across the state and causing at least three injuries. The

governor's office issued a state of emergency for any counties needing

assistance.


Related Topics:

Wicked weather hits NE Texas

Tornado hits Michigan town

Tornadoes tear through Illinois and Midwest


More links on Tornadoes

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