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Update: 11 Warren Co. deaths confirmed, as residents survey the damage after tornado

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Becca Schimmel
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At least 11 deaths have been reported in Warren County and parts of Bowling Green suffered major damage following a tornado with winds of up to 150 miles per hour struck the town overnight.

Warren County Coroner Kevin Kirby said that he has confirmed at least 11 fatalities, with more expected as more debris is cleared. He has not yet identified anyone and didn't have information on where the deaths occurred.

Dozens more deaths are anticipated in Graves County, where the governor estimates the death toll could reach 100. 

Homes, businesses, and buildings were leveled in parts of town, including along the U.S. 31-W Bypass, Russellville Road, Lansdale Avenue near Western Kentucky University, Creekwood, Stoneridge, and the Old Tram area.

Richard Whitaker, owner of Grandma's Attic on the bypass, was starting to put up plywood Saturday late morning. 

"It's just an, 'Oh, s--t, you know what I mean? I'm out of business," he said. "We're a 36-year-old business. We've been in Bowling Green for 36 years."

Kali Rigsby lives in a new apartment complex along the bypass. She initially ignored the tornado sirens that began to echo through the night in Bowling Green Friday, but then she thought the better of it.

“We were going to sleep through it, and then we decided not to. We got to the bathroom just before it happened, and we took cover with our three cats,” Rigsby said.

Warren County is one of four counties Gov. Andy Beshear said suffered deaths during an early Saturday morning news conference. One death initially reported as a Western Kentucky student was a relative of the student.

The National Weather Service Office in Louisville says the tornado that hit Bowling Green packed winds of at least 150 miles per hour, causing EF-3 level damage.

Iden Klein, 9, lives in one of the homes damaged by the storms in Bowling Green.

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Credit Becca Schimmel
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Joi Patel looked at his decimated business Saturday.

  He says Friday was his birthday, and living through a tornado was not on his wish list.

“I was glad I was in my Mom and Dad’s room, because right now, my room...the ceiling is just split open where my attic was. And then there was hail, and I was in my Mom and Dad’s room, and they made a human barrier on me,” Klein said.

Joi Patel is the owner of the tobacco shop A1 Smoke Shop along the 31-W bypass. It sat in ruins Saturday at Patel sifted through the debris. 

"You can't explain it. It's zero. Nothing. Nothing is left." said Patel. 

Widespread power outages were another result of the storm. Warren RECC said that as of early Saturday afternoon, about 16,700 customers were still without power.

 

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.