Kentucky Local News, Weather, Sports | Lexington, KY | WKYT

Flash flooding swamps Louisville

By BRUCE SCHREINER
Associated Press Writer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Flash flooding swamped Louisville with
torrents of water Tuesday that shut down universities, submerged
part of the Churchill Downs track and stranded motorists as a
strong thunderstorm landed atop the Kentucky city and refused to
budge.
National Guard flood rescue teams were dispatched to Louisville
after the morning rush hour turned into a soggy adventure as parts
of the city were inundated with up to a half-foot of rainfall
within a couple of hours. On one main artery, floodwaters gushed
over guardrails on northbound Interstate 65, causing a massive
traffic jam.
City officials reported receiving thousands of 911 calls but
said there had been no reports of significant injuries.
Sarah Moore, a student at Spalding University, found herself
trapped in floodwaters when her car stalled on her way to the
city's main library downtown, which also was devastated by
flooding.
"I looked down, it was at my feet inside my vehicle," she said
of the rising water.
She climbed out of a car window and waded in waist-high water in
a downpour. After she reached the library, the staff gave her a dry
shirt.
"I was in tears, bawling my eyes out, sopping wet," said
Moore, who waited outside the library after the rain stopped for a
ride home.
About 20,000 LG&E customers lost power in the storm and about
700 power lines were downed, according to a statement from Gov.
Steve Beshear's administration.
Strong thunderstorms also targeted other parts of Kentucky.
Flash flood or thunderstorm warnings were issued Tuesday afternoon
for sections of central and eastern Kentucky.
In hard-hit Louisville, the Coast Guard deployed a disaster
assistance response team from Cincinnati. The Kentucky National
Guard was dispatching two swift water teams.
Parking lots turned into lakes and roadways resembled rivers
after the morning deluge.
At famous Churchill Downs, some thoroughbreds were moved to a
nearby facility after water built up in a couple of barns after the
downpour, said track spokesman John Asher. Vehicles parked near
Churchill were submerged or partially submerged. Churchill is
between live racing meets.
"We've got a lot of the racetrack under water," he said.
The storm shut down the University of Louisville, where 20
buildings had flooding on the main campus, including nine with
significant damage, said university President James Ramsey. Power
was cut off at eight university buildings, down from a peak of 12.
Dozens of university of employees were evacuated from flooded
buildings.
"This is the worst flooding that the University of Louisville
campus has seen in anybody's memory," said university spokesman
Mark Hebert.
Bellarmine and Spalding universities, also in Louisville, were
closed Tuesday due to the storm, according to both schools' Web
sites.
Craig Buthod, director of Louisville's public library system,
said 3½ feet of water inundated the main library's lower level. He
said tens of thousands of books were lost and the library was
forced to close. He said staff vehicles and bookmobiles were
flooded. Books, boxes and debris bobbed in several feet of
floodwater in the library's underground parking garage. He
estimated damage at over $1 million, including new computers for a
branch that had not yet opened.
National Weather Service hydrologist Mike Callahan said part of
western Louisville was swamped by 6½ inches of rain in about two
hours.
Other parts of the city received more than 4 or 5 inches of
rain.
Louisville exceeded its normal August rainfall with the one
deluge, Callahan said.
"This storm will go down in the record books for August," he
said.
Callahan said the slow-moving storm "went right into Louisville
and just sat there."
The storm also pelted the city with marble-sized hail, and high
winds downed tree limbs.
Louisville resident John Sastre said he saw several small cars
stalled in flood waters, and was trying to pull a stranded relative
out of high water with his sports utility vehicle.
"This is the first time I've seen it like this," said Sastre,
a Louisville resident for 18 years.
Britt Singer was floating in an inflatable boat in a
neighborhood between downtown and UofL.
"This is enjoyable," he said. "How often do I get to sail
down my street in the middle of Old Louisville?"
For others the flooding meant work. Luke Zehnder said the
showroom was inundated at the car dealership where he works in
downtown Louisville.
"There was almost a foot of water up on the doors coming in,"
he said. "We were bailing it out for like two hours trying to keep
it out of there. It was pretty crazy."
In January, an ice storm downed trees and power lines, causing
769,000 power outages. It was blamed for at least 36 deaths. Last
September, remnants of Hurricane Ike produced gusts of up to 75
mph, knocking out power to an estimated 600,000 customers across
Kentucky. National Guardsmen were brought into Louisville, one of
the hardest hit cities, to help remove debris and manage traffic.
At least two deaths were blamed on the storm.
"Needless to say Mother Nature has been testing our resolve
over the last few months," Beshear said, adding that Kentuckians
"are resilient and we will recover."
---
Associated Press Writers Malcolm C. Knox, Brett Barrouquere and
Dylan T. Lovan contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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