Saturday, August 23, 2003

House washed away; boy dies, two missing

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A young boy was killed Friday when sudden heavy rains caused flash flooding that swept a home off its foundation and into a tributary of the Kentucky River.

Two other occupants of the home were missing in the floodwaters.

Franklin County Coroner Mike Harrod said the body of a 5- to 6-year-old boy was found along the banks of Stony Creek about 6 p.m.

Teams scoured the rocky, hilly area north of Kentucky's capital city in helicopters, a boat and on the ground with search dogs for the two people who were missing.

Roger Smith, who lives nearby, said he witnessed the house being swept into the creek.

"I saw it wash away with a woman and probably a 3-year-old baby," said Smith.

He saw a woman at the window and rescuers trying to get to the home. But before the rescuers could get their boat off its trailer, the house washed away.

"The house was gone. It took seconds," Smith said. He saw the house completely break apart, the walls collapse and the roof fall in.

"Before it went out of sight, the roof busted apart," Smith said.

A firefighter was struck by lightning during the storm, which swept through about 3:30 p.m. Lt. Scotty Smither was in stable condition at Frankfort Regional Medical Center.

Stacy Floden, a spokeswoman for the state's Division of Emergency Management, said high water stranded two school buses in northern Franklin County.

City fire crews responded and about a dozen students on one bus were taken to Bald Knob Fire Station about a mile away from Stony Creek and have been picked up by their parents, Frankfort city fire Lt. Dan Shouse said. Four students on the second bus were taken home by the driver. There were no injuries to the students.

The storm also felled trees on several primary and secondary roads. Downed trees were blocking U.S. 60 between Frankfort and Versailles, Floden said.

Police closed U.S. 421 at the edge of Frankfort, causing a traffic jam of people who were unable to get home.

Ricky Cornish, a truck driver for a concrete company, lives on Harp Pike in one of the flooded areas and was among those stranded in a section of Frankfort along the Kentucky River.

Cornish was unable to get home but was in phone contact with his wife, Carolyn.

"We've got houses washed off. Bridges, power lines - you name it, it's all out," said Cornish.

He and his wife live in a mobile home on high ground in the flooded area. He said his home was OK but a footbridge over a small stream washed away and he lost bales of hay.

Frankfort police closed several roads within the city limits because of high water, dispatcher Scott Mitchell said. The roads opened again about 6:30 p.m.

The line of storms was packing large hail and lightning from Owensboro to Lexington, the National Weather Service reported. Severe thunderstorm warnings were in effect Friday afternoon.

National Weather Service meteorologist James Brotherton said the storm dumped 5-6 inches of rain on Franklin County between 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.

LG&E spokeswoman Debbie Shobe said that 11,000 customers were without power at 7:30 p.m. Most outages were in metro-Louisville counties, but 1,700 customers were blacked out in the Lexington area as well. The company reported 40-50 lines downed by the storm.

The storms were moving south Friday night, the weather service said. Warnings were in effect as far south as Allen and Monroe counties, on the Tennessee border, and as far west as Lyon County, near the Land Between the Lakes.

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