Following floods in Eastern Kentucky that forced more than 100 rescue operations Thursday and into the early hours of Friday, Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency that gives officials the ability to request help from the National Guard and other assistance from the state and federal government.
The flooding was, in some areas, the highest it’s been since a historic 1977 flood that left 10 people dead in Eastern Kentucky. No fatalities were reported this week, though flooding has undoubtedly caused substantial amounts of property damage across several counties.
“It’s amazing, not one (injury),” said Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock. “I can tell you some harrowing stories of ‘almost.’”
In Bell County, crews retrieved about 100 people in about two dozen high-water rescue operations, and the county’s dispatch center processed 850 calls in 14 hours.
Brock said Beshear’s emergency declaration could help impacted residents and counties receive federal assistance.
“There’s a lot of folks out there in need of help, and we’re gonna do everything in our power to help them,” he said.
The statewide emergency declaration gives the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management the authority to set up an operations center to coordinate response efforts, consult with the American National Red Cross, and request assistance from the federal government.
On Thursday, state and local officials reported more than 45 roads were closed in six Eastern Kentucky counties; about 600 people in Knox County were without running water; and “countless” slides and washouts.
Brock said Bell County officials would not be able to determine an accurate estimate of damage until early next week. Floodwaters across the region were still receding Friday afternoon.
Middlesboro police officer Harvey Johnson said Friday that water had receded enough for the city to re-open all roads. Several businesses and homes were damaged, he said, but he reported no injuries.
“We were awful blessed and lucky that nothing bad had happened,” Johnson said.
In Harlan County, where emergency responders performed at least 20 rescues Thursday, Emergency Management Director David McGill said all roads were open Friday afternoon but that he is receiving reports that indicate substantial property damage to homes and other private property.
Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley said the county received about 20 calls Wednesday from people who reported water in their homes, and he expects that number to rise over the next couple days.
“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” Mosley said. “It’s a large county and the thing about it is it’s been very widespread damage.”
The county plans to start its damage assessment Saturday morning, he said.
“This was a devastating event for the county and the citizens of the county, so any help is greatly appreciated,” McGill said.