April showers bring trail of destruction

Apr. 2—A series of storms tore through much of the area Tuesday producing high winds that left homes and businesses with significant damage and caused widespread communication and power outages.

"We had severe storms that impacted the county this morning," Garth Wireman, Greenup County emergency management director, said. "The whole county was hit hard, but particularly the areas along the river, the cities of Greenup and Worthington."

The National Weather Service confirmed an EF1 tornado touchdown in the Westwood area of Boyd County on Tuesday morning, which overturned a mobile home and damaged tree lines.

At the Greenup County Fairgrounds, trees fell on to buildings and the wind flattened a building.

Throughout the county Wireman said there were trees and power lines down as well as buildings destroyed by the wind, roofs torn off and other damage to homes.

"We are still gathering damage reports and assessments in the county," Wireman said.

As the first spout of rain, thunder and heavy winds gave way to a brief moment of sunshine in the afternoon, caravans of vehicles were turned away at Ashland's Walmart on River Hill Drive.

Despite the calming weather, each of the continuously circling vehicles was met with the same message from workers donned in neon safety vests: "We're closed."

Claudia Thompson, one of Walmart's employees stationed at the entrance Tuesday afternoon, said employees were briefly corralled near the store's fitting rooms as the front doors were blown open by heavy winds.

Eyewitnesses and employees also inside of the store during the severe weather outbreak said the signs affixed to the ceiling flapped wildly before the store lost power, ultimately leading to the store's closing until power could be restored.

Thompson said the employees were eventually given the all clear, but the storm's passing was evident, with branches littering the parking lot and a detached tractor trailer sat blown over on its side.

Thompson also reported other minor damage to structures outside of the main store but noted no injuries to her knowledge.

Much of The Daily Independent's coverage area was smacked by the weather event, where Boyd County Judge-Executive Eric Chaney said straight-line winds were recorded at more than 100 miles per hour at Boyd County's Emergency Management headquarters.

The string of storms produced high winds, heavy rains, hail, lightning and tornadic damage, per the National Weather Service.

Wireman stressed the importance of residents being prepared for more severe weather.

The county was monitoring another line of strong storms heading toward Greenup County on Tuesday night.

"We are under a tornado watch and the storms are getting ready to roll through," he added.

Wireman stressed the importance for residents to be prepared. In addition to an emergency preparedness kit ready to go, he urged people to sign up for weather alerts and monitor the weather overnight.

"Sign up for the county's alerts," Wireman said. "Make sure they signed up for alerts and have wireless emergency alerts enabled so they get pushed to them."

Wireman said while many phone providers had been very spotty on Tuesday, the county's 911 system remained up and running throughout the storms.

Unsurprisingly, the high winds toppled trees, downed power lines and caused significant damage to homes in the Ironville area of Boyd County, one of the hardest hit in terms of physical damages.

In downtown Ashland, Don's Men's Shop reported damage to its storefront, as the high winds shattered the shop's front windows, knocking over mannequins and window displays.

Per the men's shop's social media page, the shop has ordered new glass fronts and anticipates reopening on Wednesday.

Further into Ashland, 9th Street and Central Avenue were closed for a lengthy time period due to the winds bringing down power lines, tree limbs and utility poles preventing safe travel.

On I-64, all lanes near mile markers 155 and 181 were also closed for much of Tuesday morning due to downed power lines but were reported as reopened at of the time of this writing.

The storm's damaging winds were evident traveling down U.S. 23 into Greenup County, too, as strong winds impacted power lines, rendering stoplights useless at several intersections.

Nearly 60 homes were still without power on Tuesday evening in the area with crews still working to clear roadways and downed wires.

As of 8 p.m., 1,500 Greenup County residents were still without power, Wireman said.

In addition to Chaney's state of emergency declaration in Boyd County, Gov. Andy Beshear also declared a state of emergency following the severe storms.

All executive branch offices were closed throughout the state on Tuesday as Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet were deployed to the affected areas.

Morehead State University's main campus in Morehead also elected to cancel all in-person classes for Tuesday afternoon, as more storms, tornado and flood watches were forecasted into Tuesday afternoon and evening.

(606) 326-2652 — mjepling@dailyindependent.com