Grieshop said more than half a million dollars in damage has already been estimated as of Wednesday. He said he will sign the necessary documents today declaring the emergency for the county.
"The storm came in quickly and caught a lot of people by surprise," Grieshop said. "The reason being the intensity of the storm was much greater than we thought it would be."
The massive storm hit Harlan County between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. The most severe damage was in the Browning Acres and Grays Knob area.
According to Harlan County Disaster and Emergency Services Director David McGill, the emergency operations center was activated at the courthouse at 11:15 p.m.
Emergency agencies were dispatched shortly after the storm began. Utility poles and powerlines were blown to the ground and trees were uprooted or twisted off at the top or near the ground. Several roofs were ripped off, and porches and garages could be seen several houses away in neighbors' yards.
"I appreciate all the first responders that came out to assist the various troubled areas so quickly and professionally," Grieshop said.
Portions of the county lost power almost immediately after the storm began. Most of the city of Harlan, Baxter, Browning Acres and Grays Knob was without electricity and telephone service on Wednesday.
Long lines of vehicles could be seen at a few gas stations and restaurants that had electricity. By Wednesday evening, most of the county's power had been restored.
The Harlan City Police Department was busy Tuesday night with downed powerlines within the city at the Harlan Center and other areas.
Harlan County Sheriff Marvin Lipfird said when he observed the damage to the county Wednesday morning he scheduled extra deputies to patrol areas where electricity was lost as an extra precaution, in case of vandalism or theft at homes and businesses.
When the state police got word of the storm coming, KSP Sgt. Jason Adams said he warned the people on the picket lines in front of the Harlan ARH Hospital and Daniel Boone Clinic to seek shelter. Adams said some of the union members sought shelter at the Shell station, nearby restaurants and at his residence in Browning Acres. Some took shelter in their vehicles as well.
A lot of storm damage occurred along the Ball Park Road area. It was reported that a portion of the roof at Daniel Boone Clinic was torn off.
The storm damaged the roof of the emergency room at the Harlan ARH Hospital, officials said. Hospital CEO David Brash said emergency room services were temporarily moved to another area of the hospital while repairs were made. No one was injured, he said.
Dan Mosley, Harlan County E-911 and special programs coordinator, and McGill spent most of the morning evaluating the damage, taking pictures and compiling information.
"It got pretty intense," Mosley said of the storm. "I even had a tree to fall on my house. At the time, we didn't know how bad it was. There were so many reports of damage coming in, we didn't know at first if people were hurt or even worse."
A survey team from the National Weather Service (NWS) should be in the area today to conduct a damage assessment survey.
"At this point and time, we don't know if it was a tornado or not," said NWS Meteorologist John Harley. "Harlan County was one of the top spots as far as damage. What caused this was we had a long stretch of warm weather, then we had a cold front move in. When the two air masses collided, it produced rapidly moving thunderstorms."
Hail the size of softballs was reported in Hart County, the NWS said.