Storms around country destroy homes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 4, 2000

The Associated Press

Owensboro, Ky.

Tuesday, January 04, 2000

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Owensboro, Ky. – A spring-like storm on an unusually warm winter’s day sent a tornado through this western Kentucky city, damaging hundreds of homes but causing no deaths. Some people dashed to safety inside a bank vault.

The tornado cut a wide path of destruction through residential and business districts near Kentucky Wesleyan University late Monday afternoon.

”Every road leading on or off the campus is blocked by downed trees or power lines, so there is no getting in or out,” said Wesley Poling, the school’s president.

Along with the largely unoccupied campus, officials estimated as many as 750 homes and 35 businesses were damaged in the city of about 54,000.

Thirteen people required hospital treatment, mostly for bumps and bruises, but one remained in serious condition today, Owensboro Mercy Hospital nursing supervisor Mary Moore said today. Authorities initially said 18 were taken to the hospital.

An estimated 5,000 customers were without power and may remain so for up to three days, said Jody Wassmer, a city utilities spokesman.

As the sky darkened over Owensboro, bank teller Vickie Duvall saw a utility pole fly through the branch’s drive-thru ”just as a car would.”

Moments later, workers dashed to safety as the roof began to creak.

”We just barely made it into the vault when the ceiling collapsed,” said Tammy Lewis, another employee.

In nearby Crittenden County, a state of emergency was declared with as many as 100 homes damaged, and a tornado was reported in Webster County as the storms skipped across western Kentucky and north-central Kentucky.

The storm struck on a day when temperatures surpassed 60 degrees and a band of unstable weather rolled across the nation’s midsection.

Thunderstorms knocked out power in Arkansas, and tornadoes and thunderstorms moved through southeast Missouri.

Twisters also touched down in Mississippi, destroying homes and injuring about a half-dozen people, including a couple whose home was flipped off its foundation near New Albany. The couple were in stable condition at a hospital.

Thunderstorms and a possible tornado also damaged more than 20 homes in southern Illinois.

In southwestern Ohio, more than 6 inches of rain fell, flooding basements, knocking out power and closing roads. Some streets were closed in the Cincinnati area, and minor wind damage was reported statewide.