‘Downburst’ carried winds of  70-80 mph

The storm caused a roof, described as being 100 feet in length, to be blown off of the former Hock Shop building on West Court Street and onto four cars, one of which was in operation. The driver of that vehicle died at the scene. A passenger was uninjured.

A Pike County resident died as a result of the storm that pummeled Prestonsburg on Wednesday. 

Floyd County Coroner Greg Nelson confirmed Thursday that Michael Coleman, 61, of Pikeville was killed as a result of blunt force trauma he suffered during the storm. Officials reported that Coleman was driving on West Court Street with his fiancé when the roof of the former Hock Shop building blew off and crashed onto his vehicle and three other vehicles parked on the roadway. The female occupant, whose name was not released, was not physically injured. 

Ed Ray, a meteorologist who serves as the science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in Jackson, said the incident was the result of a downburst that carried winds of between 70 and 80 miles per hour. 

“It was basically a downburst from a thunderstorm and a lot of times those will be fairly localized in an area, like last year, we had one in Paintsville, for example, and also two days later, believe it or not, one in Frenchburg,” Ray said. 

The storm, which occurred at approximately 2:15 p.m. and lasted only a few minutes, caused trees to fall on two houses, a tree to crash into a car near City Hall and the 100 feet long rooftop to blow off of the former Hock Shop building, which was under renovation.

Prestonsburg Fire Department Lt. Celina Thomas, a paramedic, and Prestonsburg Mayor Les Stapleton were the first responders to arrive at the scene of the fatality. 

Thomas said the passenger was already out of the vehicle when she arrived and was physically uninjured but “emotionally distraught.” 

“Myself and Mayor Stapleton were the first ones to the vehicle,” Thomas said. “We managed to get the windows broke. We checked on the individual. He was obviously deceased. At that point, we secured the scene, got people out of the way and just waited on extra personnel to get there.” 

The roof damaged four cars on Court Street, three of which were parked, Thomas said. 

“They probably didn’t hear it,” she said about the occupants of the vehicle. “But it ripped off clean and it just come down and just laid right on top the vehicles.” 

West Court Street was closed after the incident and traffic was diverted on Thursday. 

Thomas said it was a “miracle” that there weren’t any more wrecks during the storm. She and Stapleton described the conditions as a “white out.”  

They expressed gratitude for the assistance received from the public. Stapleton said there was an “outpouring of support” from other cities and counties. 

Thomas said officials and customers from West Court Street businesses came out to try to help.

“There were people trying to help. Nobody really wanted to get under that roof, but all the business owners were out. People came up from the restaurants. They were all over the place,” she said. “So, as soon as we assessed the patient, we cleared the scene because it was obviously still dangerous.” 

Floyd County Emergency Management Director Tim Fields reported that most of the damage reported from the storm occurred in Prestonsburg. Throughout the county, he said the storm mostly toppled trees and blocked roadways. No other injuries were reported.

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