Published February 22, 2003
ATHOL, Ky. – A storm ripped through Breathitt County, killing two people, injuring 10 others and leaving an entire community in shambles.
Pieces of mobile homes were scattered across the eastern Kentucky rural community. Automobiles were strewn alongside Kentucky 52, the community's main road. Thousands of trees were leveled on nearby hillsides.
"I heard something like a train and I could see the wind coming," said Bonnie Noble, whose home was heavily damaged in the storm. "I ran to the bathtub and put a pillow over my head. I could hear things banging against the house."
When the storm passed, Noble opened the door to the screams of her neighbors.
Six mobile homes were destroyed, while at least five six homes, some barns and outbuildings were damaged, said Mike Coyle, a spokesman for Kentucky State Police.
The two people killed were David Noble, 40, and Theresa Herald, 26, said Ida Thorpe, a deputy coroner for Breathitt County.
Authorities searched the area 95 miles southeast of Lexington on Saturday afternoon for other victims of the storm.
"We're pretty sure we've got everyone accounted for now," said Chris Stepp, a firefighter from nearby Lee County.
Firefighters had to remove two mobile homes and five trees along a half-mile stretch of the highway to get their trucks into the community, Stepp said.
The Kentucky National Guard secured the scene Saturday night and crews were to return Sunday morning to start the cleanup.
Bonnie Noble's husband, Harlan, found one of the victims along the railroad tracks near his home.
Photo albums and credit cards belonging to some of his neighbors were strewn across the Noble's front yard. About eight vehicles in Noble's used car lot were destroyed by the storm, he said.
Police received a call about 4 p.m. EST of a weather event on Highway 52, said Derek Sturgill, a Kentucky State Police dispatcher.
"It's a real bad mess," he said.
Strong rains were drenching the area on Saturday. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Breathitt County at 4:04 by the National Weather Service in Jackson, said meteorologist Shawn Harley.
The weather service had not determined if the community was hit by a tornado or straight line winds, Harley said.
The damaging winds Saturday came in the wake of an ice and rain storm that left thousands of central Kentucky residents without power and caused some flooding to the east.
Ice, snow, sleet and rain last Saturday night, left a path of hazardous roads, fallen trees and power outages to thousands of households.
Both Lee and Breathitt counties were among those declaring local emergencies because of the earlier storm.
About 12,300 customers in the Lexington area remained without power Saturday, a full week after many of them lost electricity from ice coating power lines and limbs.
"It's been a pretty long week for not only our crews but other parts of the state and other states that have been fighting this," said Cliff Feltham, a spokesman for Kentucky Utilities.
Police officers in Lexington were still directing traffic at several intersections that still did not have functioning stoplights Saturday.