Monday, May 12, 2003

Weekend storms leave big mess


Ky. tornado kills 1, injures dozens

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

VANCEBURG, Ky. - Paulette and Doug Pugh spent Mother's Day with their children - sifting through splintered wood and shards of glass in their roofless house.

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Garnetta Rickett walks through the doorway of her father's home in Lewis County, Ky., on Sunday. A tornado on Saturday destroyed at least 22 homes in Lewis and Mason counties.
(Steven M. Herppich photo)
| ZOOM |
Less than 24 hours before, Mrs. Pugh was looking out the front door of their three-bedroom brick home when she saw a large black mass creep over a hill to destroy a house across the street.

"My husband came in, grabbed me and we ran to the bathroom," the 54-year-old woman said.

"Glass shattered, and he cut his foot. He could barely get his fingertips around the bathroom door to slam it shut."

The Pughs' home - as well as several others about 10 miles west of Vanceburg along Kentucky's AA Highway - received heavy damage Saturday night when a tornado swept through Lewis and Mason counties.

At least 17 were hospitalized in those Lewis and Mason counties.

Elsewhere in Kentucky, one person was killed and at least 16 others injured early Sunday as a string of strong storms caused damage in at least 19 counties.

Saturday's tornado destroyed at least 22 homes in Mason and Lewis counties, and caused considerable damage to another 11 homes, said Wayne Muse, Mason county's emergency management director.

Among them was the double-wide trailer where Wilson Moore had lived for more than 20 years.

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"The tornado shoved it back about 12 feet," Moore said. "It tore the walls off and the roof, and broke the windows. We're just trying to salvage what we can."

So was Michael Phillips. He was still mourning the May 9 death of his wife when a tornado nearly flattened their three-bedroom mobile home.

Phillips and his 7-year-old son, Michael, lifted what was left of the walls and furniture, searching for the laminated obituary of his wife, Stephanie.

They both smiled when a friend found a gold necklace that will now go to Phillips' daughter.

"I don't know if there's much left," the 33-year-old father said. "I was just starting over again. Now, I've got to do it again."

A few feet away - on the same property lot - Arthur and Grace Applegate's house was still standing. A cedar tree had fallen onto the roof and a few windows were broken, but the couple, who hid in the basement, walked out unharmed.

"It felt like the house was squeezing in and shaking," the 67-year-old man said.

Nearby, piles of wood dotted the green hills where barns, garages and homes once stood.

Neighbors and friends walked from house to house, helping one another salvage clothes, necessities and memories.

The National Weather Service is expected to assess the area today.

Five people were injured in Hardin County, where authorities believe a probable F2 tornado hit. Winds reached 150 mph, destroying several mobile homes and leaving about 300 homes without power Sunday.

In Mercer County, a mile-wide tornado killed one woman, injured seven and destroyed at least a dozen homes. One person was still missing Sunday night.

The body of a Mercer County woman reported missing earlier Sunday was found by rescue workers in the Salt River under debris.

Officials did not immediately identify the woman. The woman's mobile home had been destroyed by the storms, though her husband was able to get out safely.

In the small town of Munfordville, about 75 miles south of Louisville, the roofs of six buildings were ripped off by a probable tornado that touched down in Hart County.

Winds reached 100 mph in other parts of Kentucky.

The gusts overturned a Taylor County mobile home, leaving three people injured, and injured a Knott County woman when a tree fell on her house.

In Greater Cincinnati, many residents also spent Sunday recovering from Saturday's heavy rains that backed up sewers in Delhi Township and flooded homes in Fairfax.

On Sunday, wind knocked trees into homes in Norwood and Hillsboro, and left several thousand people without power.

In the hardest hit areas, the American Red Cross delivered meals and first-aid items to residents.

The Red Cross shelter in Delhi Township, which was opened after the storm hit, closed Sunday. The one in Fairfax closes at 9 a.m. today.

The Associated Press contributed.

E-mail esolvig@enquirer.com




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