July 4 festivities in Paintsville were interrupted Wednesday by a thunderstorm producing a microburst, damaging businesses, residences and churches downtown.
Tree branches and other debris littered the roads and yards across downtown, and the powerful winds also uprooted or broke multiple trees.
The steeple of First Baptist Church of Paintsville was blown off the building, and wind removed a portion of the roof from the office of optometrists Conley and Cottrell.
For much of Friday, a portion of the Ky. 321 bypass through Paintsville was closed as workers with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s District 12 labored to remove a fallen tree from atop the rock cliff next to the road.
“I cannot in good conscience put people under this,” said District 12 Chief Engineer MaryWestfall-Holbrook. “It is just too dangerous.”
A preliminary review statement released Thursday from the National Weather Service in Jackson said the storm may have produced a microburst, a powerful downdraft focused in a small area of downtown Paintsville, with peak wind speeds of 75 to 85 mph.
Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike “Coach” Runyon said he was “amazed” to see how quickly residents came together to offer help during the initial cleanup, including not only first responders with Paintsville’s police and fire departments, but also Paintsville/Johnson County Emergency Management director Gary McClure, Johnson County Judge-Executive R. T. “Tucker” Daniel, Paintsville Utilities manager Bob Pack and Paintsville street department director Joe Keaton, as well as innumerable citizen volunteers.
“I was just so proud that everybody came together so quick,” Runyon said.
PJCEM released a statement Thursday requesting that any community members whose property had sustained damage contact the organization to report the damage.
“We’re just trying to document what was experienced, a lot of people were calling it a tornado, and according to the Weather Service it probably wasn’t,” McClure said. He continued, saying he was proud of first responders and their efforts Wednesday and thankful that no one was injured during the storm.
“Main thing was, nobody was injured,” McClure said. “There was a lot of stuff flying around there for about 10 minutes.”