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Southeastern Kentucky braces for more rainfall as officials declare waters at 100-year flood levels

Cumberland Falls was one of the flooded areas in southeastern Kentucky. (Photo from Kentucky Today)

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

What state officials are calling a 100-year flood has affected parts of southeastern Kentucky and warn that more rain is on the way.

Gov. Andy Beshear, local state and Emergency Management personnel held a press conference in London on Thursday to update the situation.

Beshear said the affected area has expanded, since he issued a disaster declaration last Friday. “To date, KYEM has received 10 county and seven city state of emergency declarations.”

County declarations have been made in Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, McCreary, Perry and Whiley counties; while city declarations are in Hazard, Hyden, Jenkins, Middlesboro, Pineville, Whitesburg and Williamsburg.

“This event is not done,” Beshear said. “We are going to receive significant additional rain in the coming days. So, while we are here today in part to address the damage that has been done, we also want to make sure that people have that advance warning that they can protect themselves and be aware.”

He said there have been more than 100 search-and-rescue operations during this flooding, “And there is no question that without the hard work of these local officials, there would have been more loss of life.”

KYEM Director Michael Dossett described the flooding thus far, as second only to 1977, which left 10 dead in eastern Kentucky and where 15 counties were declared disaster areas, according to National Weather Service records.

Dossett reported some of the higher rainfall amounts from Feb. 3-6 over the past week were: Bell County 6.97 inches, Harlan County 6.20 inches, Knox County 5.43 inches and Whitley County 4.53 inches.

“We have approximately 217 homes that have been impacted,” Dossett said. That is far above the norm, if there is a norm in a flooding event, and two shelters have been opened.”

He reiterated the area is not done with heavy rain.

“On Tuesday, we’re going to experience another record heavy rainfall event. The systems that are over us are what is called ‘the new normal.’ We’re experiencing one that sets up over a geographical area and it loiters. So, we’re actually in the bullseye for the next two to three weeks.”

Dossett said the FEMA threshold for reimbursement is $6.5 million and urged everyone who has been impacted by flooding to contact their local emergency management office, so they have a complete report of damage.

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