Storms tear through Lexington

High winds damage Lexington homes, leave 7 dead elsewhere in Kentucky

Paula Stumbo was outside trying to find her cat when the worst of the storm hit her home early yesterday.

“It went black, and I could hardly breathe,” she said. “And then I started running.”

Stumbo shouted for her husband, a heavy sleeper, but he did not answer. With her dog over her shoulder, she began running down the stairs to the basement of her home on Linden Walk, just a few blocks from UK’s campus.

She only made it about six steps before a tree branch fell and hit the roof, breaking through the storm door and landing in her front hall.

“I thought we were dead,” she said. “I thought we were all dead.”

Her husband and pets made it fine through the night.

Yesterday’s storms passed through nearly all of Kentucky, said Buddy Rogers, public information officer with the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

“We have several thunderstorms and tornadoes every month of the year. February is no exception,” Rogers

said. “The difficulty with this storm is the strength and severity.”

Seven people died during the storm in Kentucky: four in Allen County and three in Muhlenberg County, Rogers said. The number of people injured and the amount of property damage from the storms may not be known for several days.

About 15,500 homes that receive electricity from Kentucky Utilities did not have power as of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, down from 66,000 at the height of the storms, according to the company. About 3,000 additional homes that receive electricity from LG&E were without power as of 5:30 p.m., down from 10,000.

UK’s campus had several downed trees and minor damage on a few buildings, said Bob Wiseman, vice president for facilities management.

The Matthews Building had roofing and shingles blown loose, as well as some bricks. The German House also had some roof damage, he said.

“Overall we were lucky,” Wiseman said.

Damage surveys are still being taken, so the exact number of tornadoes in Kentucky yesterday will not be known for a few days, said Anthony Richey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Richey said he counted more than 100 storms across Kentucky that qualified as severe, with winds of at least 58 miles per hour.

“That’s an extremely large amount of severe weather for February,” Richey said.

Road and forestry crews were in Lexington throughout the day to clear the streets of debris, according to a news release from the city. Significant damage to homes and other buildings, especially along Winchester Road and in the Garden Springs area, were reported.

English sophomore Brittany Jarog woke up yesterday morning to an e-mail saying that if she left her car on Linden Walk, she should check and make sure it wasn’t damaged.

Jarog walked down to the street, littered with debris. A tree branch had fallen on the roof of her green Ford Taurus, crushing the top of the car. The back window had been shattered.

“I immediately started crying,” Jarog said.  “I didn’t know how to handle it.”

Jarog immediately called her mother, whom she was planning to visit in Illinois this weekend. Car insurance would make things better, Jarog said, but the damage still stunned her.

“It didn’t even cross my mind that trees would be falling on my car,” Jarog said.

As the tow truck prepared to drive away with Jarog’s car, neighbors came and talked to Stumbo over the noise of the chainsaws cutting fallen trees in her yard. The mailman handed her mail and started a conversation.

“I know it’s a tough day,” he said.

“Boy, that’s an understatement,” she replied with a small smile.