Heavy rainfall and extensive flooding have prompted Governor Matt Bevin to declare a state of emergency for Kentucky. Given the impact to several Jackson County roads County Judge Executive Shane Gabbard also declared a state of emergency for Jackson County. Gov. Matt Bevin issued the executive order on Monday. Judge Gabbard declared the county state of emergency earlier on Saturday night. The governor's office says the order will enable state resources to help local governments as needed.
The Kentucky Division of Emergency Management has received state of emergency declarations from 36 counties and 11 cities. The Jackson County Public School System dismissed school early on Wednesday, Feb. 21 and then subsequently cancelled school for the remainder of the week as well as the following Monday due to high water and/or roads being impassable because of flooding, slips or downed trees.
According to Jamie Strong, Jackson County EM, Director, the only roads that remained closed as of Monday were Hwy 2004 (due to a slip) and Turkey Foot Rd from the McKee side to Hwy 587 (closed due to slips and trees down). Salt Rock Rd remains limited to one lane traffic due to a slip. “We have several roads that have limited access to 4 wheel drive vehicles but that should change pretty quickly as road crews are out today,” Strong said.
Judge Gabbard reported on Tuesday morning saying, “The recent rains this past weekend has left a big mark on Jackson County. This could be some of the worst flooding we've had in several years. I was on my way back from Richmond with my family Saturday Night when we got the call that 421 was under water in several places. I had to take an alternate route home and as soon as I got home I got the call that we had major flooding issues in several parts of the County. I spoke with County EM Director and we then decided to declare a State Of Emergency. I met with Officials and Responders at Dispatch and we declared the Emergency around 11:15 that night. We had one road in particular that concerned us greatly that being Salt Rock RD. Salt Rock had a major slide coming in it and it was getting worse by the hour. The thing that concerned us the worst was there was no other way out for people that lived in Salt Rock and Wind Cave. Our dispatchers spent most of the night calling residences on Salt Rock and Wind Cave warning them that they may not be able to get out by the morning. We have been able since Saturday night to make a small bypass to allow people to get in and out of Salt Rock Road. We had first responders and road crews that were out until late Sunday Evening just trying to open roads and access damage. I spent most of the Day Monday traveling our roads and taking pictures of damage. This event has left more roads damaged than any I can ever remember in any other event before. We have slides and roads breaking all over the County. I am hoping that since the Governor declared the State of Kentucky in a State of Emergency that we may be able to get Federal Help with our roads. This is going to be a very expensive fix and we will welcome any state and federal aid we can receive. I want to remind people that we still have State and County Roads that are impassible or restricted to one lane. Turkey Foot Rd is closed until Further Notice going towards the campground and we are waiting to hear from US Forest Service Officials on what to expect on this particular incident. I will be posting updates as we go along and want to remind everyone that even though the rain has ended that roads are still moving and slides are still possible. Please be aware and alert when you are traveling.”
Strong posted an update on social media saying, “For those people that have damage to your home or driveway, please let us know about it. You may be eligible for assistance through FEMA or the SBA. You can call me at 606-493-8443 or Jackson County Emergency 911 at 606-287-9979 or the Jackson County Judges office at 606-287-8562. Thank you and be safe. Please share and let your family members know this is an option for assistance.”
Strong also reported “a new slip on Hwy. 3447 Morrill-Kirby Knob Rd. about 2-2 1/2 miles from 421. It appeared to worsen as the day went on. Just be careful in this area. The ground is so saturated that it is continuing to move in spots and creating new slips. There is erosion damage and slides all over the county. State and county road crews have been and will continue to be extremely busy over the next few days. Thanks to Sand Gap Fire Dept. for providing traffic control today.”
According to Strong there were several rescues and evacuations in the Birch Lick and 421 area around Durham School Road. The Sand Gap Fire Department evacuated a church due to rising flood water.
Pond Creek Fire Department evacuated one person from 89 south and moved her to a family members home. There was also a report of someone stuck in Turkey Foot with the Gray Hawk and McKee Volunteer Fire Departments responding. However, they were unable to locate anyone.
While the flooding situation was a serious threat to a lot of people others used the opportunity to get out and look at the floodwaters. Lake Cumberland reached record levels after the heavy rains hammered southern Kentucky for several days. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the lake was at 755 feet above sea level Monday morning. There are about 45,000 cubic feet of water being released from the lake every second as all the spill gates are open. 83 percent of the flood control pool is being used, and the dam is expected to release 60,000 cubic feet of water per second Monday afternoon. “Well, we have never seen it this high," Ronnie Grant, who fishes at Lake Cumberland, said. "We just wanted to come over and take a look at it."