Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Weekend storms leave state cleaning up heavy damage

By Dylan T. Lovan
The Associated Press

Martin Childers thought he knew what to expect as he drove to survey the damage at the theater he runs in Prestonsburg, an eastern Kentucky community hit hard by weekend flooding.

But by the time Childers arrived at the Jenny Wiley Theatre on Sunday evening, water was knee-high and rushing across the stage.

"It was unimaginable," Childers said. "I kept trying to imagine the worst when I got here, and it was much worse than that."

Messes from high water and flash flooding had officials concerned two days after a network of heavy storms moved through most of Kentucky's northern portion on Sunday.

About 5 to 6 inches of rain fell on Prestonsburg and Floyd County, beginning Sunday evening, said Jim Caldwell, the county's emergency management director. About 500 homes there were damaged by flooding.

Two state parks in eastern Kentucky - Jenny Wiley State Resort Park and Paintsville Lake State Park - were closed because access roads were under water.

In Frankfort, high winds during a torrential rain Tuesday afternoon blew over a stately lace bark elm, blocking the circular drive around the Capitol.

In other parts of the state, harsh winds and rain did the most damage over the weekend. The National Weather Service said the week of heavy rains in Lexington capped off that city's wettest May ever, with a rainfall measurement of 10.9 inches. Louisville was soaked by 10.66 inches, its third-wettest May ever.

Lt. Gov. Steve Pence toured some of the damaged areas in northern and central Kentucky.

Henry and Oldham counties seemed to have "very widespread and significant damage," he said. However, Fayette County was "more localized, but very intense," Pence said. Henry County was hit by a tornado on Thursday. No one was killed.

"The worst damage was probably in Fayette County, only because a few homes there had been totally destroyed, beyond repair," Pence said.

Federal Emergency Management officials were surveying damage in seven counties on Tuesday: Oldham, Magoffin, Johnson, Lincoln, Fayette, Martin and Henry counties.

The weather service said on Tuesday that preliminary reports show that two mild tornados touched down in Louisville on Sunday, meteorologist John Denman said.

The only Kentucky deaths reported were in Lewis County. Three men died after they were stranded in their truck along Crooked Creek late Thursday night.

A woman who was in the truck was still missing on Tuesday.

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