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EF2 tornado damages property near Hodgenville

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Barns, outbuildings leveled in northern LaRue County

By Sarah Bennett

Sheets of distorted metal were strewn across green fields Thursday morning along Slack Road near Hodgenville. The wreckage of outbuildings rested in heaps on the ground. Road crews in bright yellow vests removed limbs from the pavement.

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“I was lucky,” said Hodgenville resident Lennie Frye Sr. as he stood in what once was his bedroom at 2057 Slack Road.

Frye said, he went upstairs to his room after 10 p.m. Wednesday to retrieve his dog. He looked through his window and saw what appeared to be a tornado approaching.

Frye said he grabbed the dog and ran before the storm ripped through his home, which he built about 18 years ago.

It happened in eight seconds, he said. A piece of drywall knocked Frye to the floor and he clutched the bottom of the railing above his stairs.

He watched as the roof was lifted about 20 feet into the air and blown into a field behind his house. Frye and his family later found pieces of the roof, he said, but not all of it.

“It was just a matter of seconds and then boom,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything or heard anything like that before in my life.”

“It sounded like 20 freight trains coming through here,” said Frye, who sustained some cuts but largely was uninjured.

According to the National Weather Service, an EF2 tornado struck Wednesday night at 10:25 p.m. in northern LaRue County near the Hardin-LaRue County line. Wind speeds reached 135 mph and the tornado traveled 7 miles with a width between 150 and 300 yards.

LaRue County Sheriff Merle Edlin said the damage extended from Castleman Road to Roanoke, covering 2 to 3 miles in length and a quarter mile wide.

With the exception of Frye’s home on Slack Road, much of the damage was limited to barns and outbuildings the wind could get under, he said. No injuries were reported.

Rock Brothers Dairy Farm on Slack Road lost five buildings and at least one cow to the storm , said Chris Loyall, son-in-law of owner Gary Rock. Loyall said five or six more cows were hurt during the storm and may have to be put down.

Twenty-five calves were trapped following the storm but were uninjured, he said.

Loyall was preparing to leave his home around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday to help a friend clear limbs from the roads when a family member called him.

“He said, ‘There’s nothing left at the milk parlor,’” Loyall said.

“It’s pretty much a total loss,” he said. “It got everything.”

Farmers were out all night tending to the cows and damage, Loyall said. Around 5 a.m., the animals began bawling because they wanted to be milked.

On Thursday morning, workers prepared to load the cows onto a truck so the animals could be transported to another dairy farm in Russell Springs to be cared for while the family decides how to proceed. Though the farm’s parlor and office remained standing, Loyall said they may choose to close the farm in the wake of the storm damage.

“This is all they’ve ever done is milk cows,” he said.

Frye examined a crater in his front yard Thursday afternoon left behind by an oak tree. A chunk of earth and roots still clung to the end of the fallen tree.

“Can you imagine the force you’d have to have to move that thing?” he said, looking at the 75-year-old tree.

Frye said he bought the land in 1991 after another tornado tore through the same stretch of LaRue County.

Asked what he plans to do about his home, Frye said he hasn’t decided.

“It was a wild trip,” he said. “I can tell you that much.”

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.