Heavy winds, storm knock down trees, power lines in Switzerland County

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Bill Richardson was lying comfortably doing some reading in the front parlor of his home when a tree came crashing through his house.

Heavy winds rocked through Switzerland County on Sunday night, knocking down trees, limbs and power lines.

“The storm came out of nowhere,” said Bill Richardson, a retired college professor whose home at 405 West Market Street was damaged by a large tree that fell across and into his house.

“My wife was upstairs when the tree fell,” he said. Jane Richardson was fortunately far enough away from the fallen tree to avoid injury, but “she was trapped in the back of the room. It was scary,” said Bill Richardson, who had to “move some fallen 2×4 uprights” to rescue his wife.

Bill Richardson said he was certain it was a tornado that pulled that tree out of the ground, along with another one just a few yards away that landed on the home of George and Donna Jean Harlow, 405 West Market Street. “Those trees twisted out of the ground,” he said. “They twisted out of the ground 180 degrees.”

Switzerland County Sheriff Nathan Hughes said, “the National Weather Service talked about strong straight-line winds and they can have the same type of swirling action, but I heard no reports of a tornado.” He said the storm pulled “siding and shingles off houses, knocked trees down and power lines, but I had no reports of anyone hurt.”

County Highway Superintendent Edd Cook said highway employees were out working to clear county roads until 12:15 a.m. Sunday night, then were back on the job at 6 a.m. “It was a short night for them,” he said. Roads affected by downed power lines and trees were Pendleton Run, Montgomery Road, Tapps Ridge and Pleasant View Ridge.

“It was a tremendous effort throughout the county by the highway (workers) and everybody. They did a real good job under the circumstances,” said County Commissioner K.C. Banta at Monday’s Commissioners’ meeting.

Angeline Protogere, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy which provides power in the Town of Vevay, didn’t have exact figures for how many Switzerland County customers lost power, but said 3,600 customers in the Madison-Scottsburg-Vevay district were without electricity for varying lengths of time between Sunday at 7 p.m. and Monday at 10:30 a.m. “We’ve been in the midst of a major power restoration,” she said.

Shelly Profumo, administrator of Swiss Villa Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, said “everyone responded greatly” when the facility lost power. “We do have generators. Everybody was safe and everything went smoothly,” she said.

Some subscribers to Time-Warner Cable lost service due to the storm. Internet connection to the Vevay Newspapers office was out from Sunday night until mid-afternoon on Tuesday. “Customers in downtown Vevay were the worst impacted,” said Robert Trott, general manager for Time-Warner in central Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. The company provides digital phone, digital cable and high-speed Internet service. “We had to put up new cable, strand wire and the electronics that go with it,” said Robert Trott, who praised the effort of the workers in getting Time-Warner’s service functioning again.

George and Donna Jean Harlow weren’t home when a tree fell on their house, located right next door to the Richardsons. “We came home 15 minutes after it hit,” said George Harlow. The tree landed on top of the bedroom on the far northeast side of the house. “It could have been a lot worse than it was,” he said. “Nobody got hurt.”

On Main Street in Vevay, a large limb fell off a tree onto a recreational vehicle and upholstery business, owned by Robert Wagner. “When it hit, it hit hard,” he said.

“I was in the house looking out the kitchen door” when it happened, said Robert Wagner, whose house at 511 West Main Street is located right next door to his upholstery business.

The limb put a hole in the roof of the trailer, and damaged the whole front side of the upholstery business including a stairway and a glass door. “I could only see glass from one end to the other” when it happened, Robert Wagner said.

He’s been in the upholstery business for 37 years including the last 18 years at the current location. Mr. Wagner has owned the trailer since 1996 and “always kept it looking like new.” He’s not sure what he’ll end up doing with the damaged trailer, but he’s definitely going to repair the building that houses his upholstery business.

Bill and Jane Richardson moved from Pennsylvania to Vevay one year ago and the storm hasn’t changed their opinion of their new home in Switzerland County. “We have enjoyed living here and just about had this house the way we wanted it,” he said. Now, they’re going to get it looking that way again. “We’re going to get back in as soon as possible. We’re going to get it re-done,” he said.