Storm damage cleanup underway across state

Heavy winds ripped across eastern Kentucky Tuesday evening, knocking trees to the ground and leaving a big mess behind.

KU officials estimate some 13,000 customers lost power in Knox, Laurel, Bell, and Whitley counties. They expect to have all power restored by Wednesday or Thursday.

Several roads at one point were blocked in Bell and Whitley counties.

"The clouds were getting darker and darker," said James Smith of Pineville.

"The electricity was going on and off," said Crystal Swain, also of Pineville.

As the storm blew in, people quickly became concerned. There were reports of a possible tornado in the area.

"Called people up the road to see if they knew about it ... and we took cover," said Smith.

"We had probably 20 minutes of horrendous wind ... downed a lot of trees," said Bell County Judge Executive Albey Brock.

"A lot of heavy wind, bright lightning, loud thunder ... and then we seen firetrucks," said Smith.

Downed trees knocked telephone lines nearly to the ground over Highway 66 just east of Pineville, making travel through the area impossible. Crews from the Bell County Volunteer Fire Department and Bell County Road Department first had to cut the trees off the lines. Then they had to pull the lines away from the highway so traffic could once again get through.

"We had some high winds and a lot of downed trees and lines ... but these guys have done a fantastic job in getting this road clear," said Brock.

In Middlesboro, winds also knocked trees onto roads, and even crumpled tents to the ground. But even with all the mess there were no reports of serious injuries.

At last check, one lane of Highway 66 near Pineville was open to traffic as telephone crews worked to fix their lines.