Damage from at least four tornadoes emerges across Kentucky after weekend storms

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  • Andy Beshear
    63rd governor of Kentucky

One day after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued a state of emergency following severe storms that swept across the state, the National Weather Service said it appears at least four tornadoes hit parts of the state.

Weather-service survey teams on Sunday said they found preliminary evidence of tornadoes with wind speeds of between 85 mph and 110 mph causing damage south of Bowling Green, in Madison County near Union City, near Glasgow and in Taylor County near Campbellsville.

Another team estimated that an EF-2 hit Hopkinsville with winds near 115 mph — one of four more spots of potential tornadoes still being investigated Sunday. In all, the storms impacted 31 Kentucky counties.

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So far, no fatalities or injuries have been confirmed. But the damage, which is still being tallied by weather-service teams expected to work into Monday, comes as snow and freezing temperatures were forecast for many of the affected areas Sunday night.

“We are urging Kentuckians in impacted areas to please stay off the roads as much as possible tonight,” Gov. Beshear said Sunday. “Cold temperatures and the possibility of snowfall, combined with wet roads and standing water, are expected to create even more hazardous road conditions.”

The storms hit the state just three weeks after deadly tornadoes killed more than 90 people in five states, including 77 in Kentucky.

The latest powerful severe weather system generated heavy rain, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and strong straight-line winds, causing flash flooding, loss of power and damage to property.

Beshear said he plans to travel to Hopkinsville on Monday to assess the damage and check on rebuilding efforts following last month's tornadoes.

“It is devastating that we are once again experiencing severe weather just weeks after the deadly tornadoes hit Western Kentucky," Beshear said Saturday. "Sadly, some counties have been affected by both of these events."

On Sunday, local states-of-emergency declarations were in effect in Casey, Clay, Floyd, Madison, Owsley, Pike and Taylor counties.

Flash flooding in Green, Barren, Taylor, Adair, Owsley, Breathitt and Casey counties resulted in numerous road closures and water rescues. Overall, heavy rains blocked more than 75 roads on Saturday, with 32 remaining closed on Sunday and at least seven landslides reported.

Electric customer outages have been reported in Pike County, affecting 1,190 customers, and 342 customers have been affected in Floyd County, Beshear's office said.

How many distinct tornadoes the weekend's storm will ultimately represent remains unclear, said Andrea Schoettmer, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

EF-1 tornadoes, which are on the weak side of the scale, tend to be short-lived, she said. Survey teams have seen damages to trees, barns and roofing, she said.

Some damage in Hopkinsville was suspected to have been caused by a "quick, spin-up tornado," meteorologist Kyle Wilkins with the National Weather Service's Louisville office said Saturday.

According to the Associated Press, several downtown businesses were damaged by a possible tornado. WTVF-TV reported that a Family Dollar store was largely destroyed, and the roof of a Marathon gas station had blown into a park across the street. Other nearby buildings had roof damage, and there were many downed power lines, the station reported.

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Derrick Snyder at the National Weather Service's Paducah office said Saturday there was some damage to roofs, signs and power lines.

Kentucky Emergency Management activated the State Emergency Operations Center, and personnel from the Kentucky National Guard, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky State Police and Kentucky Department of Public Health are monitoring the situation from the SEOC, according to Beshear's office.

“Unfortunately, we continue to experience severe weather in the commonwealth as we move into the new year, with impacts across our south central counties experiencing heavy rainfall, flash flooding, tornado strikes and continuous squall lines,” Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management, said Saturday.

A flood warning remained in effect for parts of the Kentucky River region, and flood watches were issued across some areas of Kentucky, such as Franklin County and areas of Eastern Kentucky, according to the weather service.

On Sunday, counties in Southeast Kentucky were under a winter weather advisory until 8 a.m. on Monday, with snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches expected in some areas.

Temperatures in Louisville were set to reach 45 Sunday, with a low of about 26 degrees. On Monday, the high is expected to hover around 37 degrees. On Tuesday and Wednesday, temperatures will be in the upper 40s before another cold front returns.

Contact reporter Chris Kenning at ckenning@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky state of emergency: At least 4 tornadoes confirmed over weekend

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