Two EF-1 tornadoes hit southeast of Hopkinsville Saturday morning, according to preliminary damage survey results released Sunday evening by the National Weather Service-Paducah. Teams are still surveying the area.
Our survey team has confirmed two EF-1 tornadoes occurred southeast of Hopkinsville, KY in Christian County. Here are the details: https://t.co/qHy5Zj03rEThey are still surveying within the city limits of Hopkinsville. pic.twitter.com/krPjk0hnHF— NWS Paducah (@NWSPaducah) January 12, 2020
The Enhanced Fujita Scale classifies EF-1 tornadoes as having 86 to 110 mph winds. High winds and heavy rain pummeled Hopkinsville around 7:30 a.m. Saturday as emergency sirens echoed through the community.
“Anything north of downtown appears to have been the hardest hit in Hopkinsville,” said Mayor Carter Hendricks.
The storm damaged several public buildings, including the Christian County Senior Center (activities building), Christian County High School and the old Booker T. Washington School, which is owned by Cedar Grove Baptist Church. U.S. Tobacco also reported damage.
Cleanup continued today.
Standing in puddles of water inside the senior center, Rachel Newman, aging program director for Pennyrile Allied Community Services, assessed extensive roof and water damage Saturday morning.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “The damage to the building is very, very extensive. The roof damage caused a lot of leakage inside the center. We haven’t been able to get into the kitchen real well to see the extent of the damage, but I think the kitchen is pretty good.”
Newman said cleanup began with furniture removal Saturday then water removal and roof repair today.
“They have pulled down the wet tiles and they are just trying to dry the building out,” she said.
In the parking lot and in residential yards behind the center, roof insulation was scattered everywhere.
Newman said insurance adjustors will assess the damage Monday.
“We’ll have to have an engineer and architect come in,” she said.
Most programs at the senior center are suspended until further notice.
“We do have emergency meals planned for our home-delivery clients,” she said. “We hope to have hot meals back out to them Tuesday. They will be prepared in another county temporarily until we get set up somewhere else. I will be working on that location Monday.”
Newman said local media will be notified in a couple of days about the temporary site for congregate meals and possibly bingo.
“I was thankful that it was the senior center (activities building) versus the senior apartments next door. Then, we would have had so many (displaced) seniors,” she said. “We will be able to provide services, it will just be at a different location temporarily.”
For more information, seniors can call the central office at 270-886-6341.
As the rain continued to fall Saturday morning, Jonathan Zordel, president of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Youth League, and several board members toured what remained of Ruff Park.
“This is probably mass destruction, the closest I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I can’t believe the extent of the damage here. It’s apparent the wind just picked up anything that it could and knocked over everything in its path. This is quite disheartening to say the least.”
The fence surrounding Ruff Park laid on the soaked ground. Power lines stretched across the walkway leading to the ball diamonds, as roofs of dugouts lay upside down on the grass. Lights shattered on the baseline of Field 2 were surrounded by mangled fencing.
Signs dangled from the twisted fencing behind home plate and a dumpster landed in the outfield of one of the ballfields. Zordel urged the community to steer clear of Ruff Park until power lines and debris are cleaned up.
“It doesn’t appear that there’s a field out here that’s not been affected by the storm,” he said. “Our lights are hanging and wires everywhere. Bleachers are down.”
Zordel said the league was gearing up for spring sports signups and were about to open online registrations.
“So, now we're going to have to figure out a plan,” he said. “I’m sure there will be a plan so our kids can still play some ball. Don’t know exactly at this point what that would be. I feel confident that our board would be able to put something together.”
Zordel hopes to receive assistance in recovery efforts through its partnerships with the city and county.
“Not all is gloom and doom as what it looks like at our park here, but this is quite extraordinary to say the least,” he said. “This stuff can be replaced. I think our community is a strong one. We rally behind each other when the time arises.”
Wendell Lynch, Ward 6 city councilman, shook his head as he looked at part of the Booker T. Washington School roof thrown onto Second Street. Lynch attended grades first through sixth at the school.
“This has been a landmark in our community. It really means a lot,” he said. “I’m really glad it hadn’t been taken down and hope it will be converted to a different use. It’s really sad to see this. This is an act of nature, an act of God and there’s nothing we can do about it. Hopefully, it won’t mean the end to this landmark.”
Lynch said although the building is privately owned, he was not sure about getting any assistance to repair it.
“It’s just too soon to know,” he said. “It’s a really old building and sometimes the cost of restoration is just not worth it for these old structures.”
About 80% of the Hopkinsville Electric System was without power mid-morning Saturday primarily due to damage to the main transition line at the Tennessee Valley Authority substation. This morning, HES reported service had been restored to all businesses and residents.
Pennyrile Electric reported a power outage affecting approximately 9,000 members in the Cadiz district Saturday morning due to a TVA outage on its 161kV line between Hopkinsville Primary Substation and Lake Barkley. This outage affected Cadiz, Canton, Pee Dee and Hopson Substations.
Pennyrile Electric reported at least 12 poles have been (or will be) replaced due to the storms. Crews continue to work today to restore service to the remaining 990 members who remain without power.
Around 1 today, Pennyrile Electric reported crews are in the process of building a new line to Glenwood Mill Road that will abandon the existing line that crosses the river. Currently, 26 residents are without power in that area; however, full restoration is expected this evening, the utility reported. Also, crews are working to replace three poles on Hardy Mill Road where TVA’s transmission line crosses Pennyrile Electric lines.
Hendricks said utility and public works crews worked tirelessly to restore power and clean up debris in the city.
“I can’t brag enough on the utility crews and the work they do along with our first responders, public works and emergency management team. They are true professionals working tirelessly to get us back to normal,” Hendricks posted on his Facebook page Saturday afternoon.
Hendricks noted this morning on Facebook that Hopkinsville Public Works has been working with its partners, including Christian County government, to deal with downed limbs, trees, power lines and storm debris across the city and county.
“There’s still more to do,” Hendricks said. “The teams are meeting again first thing Monday morning to reassess and develop their next plan of action to remove storm debris from public roads and right of ways.”
Other storm damage reports:
- Due to power loss, the Pennyroyal Center North Drive location in Hopkinsville will be closed Monday, according to an email from Summer Lindsey, chief operating officer/director of human resources. For immediate assistance, call the center's RESPOND LINE at 270-881-9551.
- Christian County Public Schools will be in session Monday at regular times, according to CCPS Spokesman John Rittenhouse. Electricity was restored Sunday to the bus garage, despite damage to the garage roof.
Reach Michele Vowell at firstname.lastname@example.org. New Era Editor Zirconia Alleyne contributed to this report.