Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Funnel cloud reported over county

A storm system passed over western Kentucky Tuesday
afternoon and evening that dropped tornadoes on the area, including
one in Mayfield, and led to reports of several funnel clouds. This one
over Crittenden County seen around 7:30 p.m. looking eastward
from atop Wilson Hill in Marion at the intersection of Ky. 506
and Briarwood Drive never touched down in the county.

The Mayfield Messenger

A tornado struck Graves County Tuesday afternoon, causing extensive damage and leaving several people with non-life-threatening injuries.

The National Weather Service office in Paducah issued a severe thunderstorm warning around 2:30 p.m. for Graves, Carlisle and Hickman counties. About 15 minutes later, the office issued a tornado warning for Graves County after a tornado was spotted about four miles from Fancy Farm. It then headed northeast toward U.S. 45 north of Mayfield and crossed Ky. 121 and 45, the NWS reported.

Graves County Emergency Management Director Davant Ramage said the tornado left extensive damage from north of the Purchase Parkway all the way to the Marshall County line.

Jackson Purchase Medical Center CEO Dave Anderson said there were no reported fatalitie. He said several patients were brought into the emergency room, but their injuries were mostly minor. One orthopedic injury was more serious, he said.

"I was overwhelmed by our medical staff and their response," Anderson said. "I think our staff was fantastic, and we had people that came in just in case we needed them because initially it sounded like the casualty count could have been pretty high. So we had all hands on deck ... I was proud of our entire team and how they stepped up."

Pat Spoden, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Paducah, said Rick Shanklin, a senior meteorologist charged with damage assessment, was en route to Mayfield late Tuesday afternoon to assess the damage.

"We have someone on the way to start to look at the damage," Spoden said. "We have lots of reports but really no detail."

Sloden said estimates concerning the size and force of the tornado would have to wait for Shanklin's assessment.

"We won't know until we do the inspections tomorrow (Wednesday)," Spoden said.

David Smart, CEO of West Kentucky Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation, said the company had about 6,000 outages - mostly in Graves County - across the company's service area at the storm's peak. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, there were still some 2,450 outages, and crews were assessing damage and gathering the equipment needed to make the repairs, he said.

"At this point, we look forward to probably the rest of the evening working on these repairs before we can restore service to those folks," Smart said.

One of the businesses on U.S. 45 North that experienced heavy damage was Bennett Motors. Many vehicles in the lot had their windshields smashed in addition to other major damage.

Owner Mike Bennett arrived at his business some time after the tornado hit.

"It's just devastating; I don't really know what to say," Bennett said. "I was in Murray picking up a car, and they called me and said a tornado had just hit the lot and destroyed the lot. I just wanted to make sure everyone was OK. That was the main thing for me. I don't care about all this (damage); I'm glad they're OK. All this can be replaced. I hate it, but there's nothing you can do about it."

Kentucky State Police spokesman Michael Robichaud said preliminary investigations showed that the tornado developed in the western part of the county and began a path east across the county. It traveled close to Graves County middle and high schools, the Board of Education office and Central Elementary, but the school buildings did not sustain significant damage, he said.

Robichaud said homes and businesses on the north side of Mayfield experienced significant damage. The majority of the damage east of Mayfield was contained to trees and fields, although some homes were seriously damaged, he said.

Graves County Schools spokesman Paul Schaumburg said the district's schools kept students on site in a lockdown after the tornado warning was issued and released them after the danger had passed. He said all the teachers did a great job responding to the situation, keeping the children safe and helping them feel secure.

Mayfield Independent Schools spokeswoman Kim Hamby said that while some of the Mayfield High School students had left for the day, the warning was issued before any elementary or middle school students had been released. Students were then held in tornado shelter areas for about 45 minutes until the all-clear was given and buses could be loaded, she said.