Daviess declared disaster area from storms

The severe storms that rolled through Daviess County Wednesday night spawned three tornadoes that touched down in the western half of the county, a Daviess County Emergency Management official said Friday.

The tornadoes, generating winds up to 100 miles and hour, damaged barns and trees, but came down in agricultural areas, Daviess EMA deputy director Chris Cunningham said Friday. No one was injured in the storms.

National Weather Service officials made the determination about the three tornadoes after touring damaged areas Friday morning. Meanwhile, the damage was extensive enough for Daviess Fiscal Court to declare the county a disaster area, which will allows agencies affected by the storm to seek federal reimbursement for expenses from storm repairs.

Cunningham said an two EF-0 tornadoes touched down near St. Joseph and West Louisville, while an EF-1 tornado touched down near Rome.

A tornado warning wasn’t issued, although the severe thunderstorm warning issued for the county included language about the storm possibly generating tornadoes, Cunningham said.

“When they (tornadoes) are rain-wrapped, especially at night, that adds a whole other complexity” for weather officials to spot them, Cunningham said. In the case of the three tornadoes Wednesday, National Weather Service officials didn’t see them in the storm, and the tornadoes were on the ground for only a short time, Cunningham said.

People need to pay attention to thunderstorm warnings to see if the NWS reports the possibility of tornadoes from the storm, Cunningham said.

“There was only one residential home damaged, and that was in St. Joe,” Cunningham said. Trees were uprooted in way that suggested twisting by a tornado, he said.

“There were a lot of destroyed barns,” Cunningham said, but that, “the residential damage was very minimal.”

In an email, Daviess EMA Director Andy Ball said city and county governments and utilities would have to cumulatively exceed $475,235.20 to be eligible for disaster reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Preliminary estimates said Kenergy sustained $300,000 damage to its power system in the county, while OMU sustained $150,000. The state highway department is believed to have sustained $25,000 in the county, Ball said in the email.

“This is rough estimate” and could increase as more damage is determined, Ball said in an interview.

The disaster declaration will also allow the agencies to individually apply for reimbursement for money spent repairing storm damage, Ball said.

Sonya Dixon, communications and public relations manager for Owensboro Municipal Utilities, said OMU’s cost includes work done by company utility crews and work from contract crews and tree services brought in to respond.

“We are up to 10 (power) polls now that have to be replaced,” Dixon said.

The entire power system is being inspected for storm damage, Dixon said.

Crews “are still out there” making repairs to the system, Dixon said.

Leslie Barr, communications and public relations specialist for Kenergy, said Friday morning about 100 Kenergy members in Daviess County were still without power in the St. Joseph area.

“After the storms, we located 50 broken poles, and a lot of downed power lines,” Barr said.