A state of emergency is in effect for many towns along the Ohio River that are experiencing moderate to severe flooding. Owensboro is dealing with some of the worst flooding it's seen since 1997.
Sustained rainfall has led to major flooding in the western Kentucky town, even forcing schools to close Tuesday in Daviess County. According to the National Weather Service, Owensboro has received around seven inches of rain since last Thursday.
Roads and farmland are under water throughout the county, as well as places along the downtown riverfront. The flooding has attracted plenty of gawkers to Smothers Park, including 70-year-old Betty Christie who has lived in Owensboro her whole life.
“This is bad, and I’ve never seen it cover the street," she told WKU Public Radio. "I’ve been seeing pictures on Facebook, but it looks worse than what I saw on Facebook.”
Floodwaters have reached the fountains in Smothers Park where crews have placed sandbags. The concert patio and the walkway are also submerged. Tina Edmonson was taking pictures at the riverfront on Monday afternoon.
"It’s just crazy. I hope it doesn’t ruin this beautiful facility. Our city has worked so hard to get this beautiful," stated Edmonson. "We have an enormous amount of community involvement down here throughout the summer, so I hope it doesn’t affect our spring and summer, but we’re strong and a close-knit community, so everyone will pull together and make it beautiful again.”
As the curious flocked to downtown, they couldn’t help but notice the debris seen floating along the Ohio River-tree limbs, a tire, even a small shed.
The Daviess County Operations Center has given out around 8,000 sand bags since Friday.
"They’re going to the public to put around houses, buildings, things like to that," said Daviess County Roads Supervisor Alan Isbill. "We have several places around the county where water is getting up around houses.”
Harvey Henderson is an inspector with the Daviess County Fire Department and the public information officer for the county. He says at one point, nearly 70 county roads were closed to high water and a few people had to be rescued from their vehicles over the weekend.
“Our list is dwindling, thankfully, but we still have a lot of roads under water and that affects not only residents getting out, but school systems, bus routes, things like that.”
Henderson was out on Millers Mill Road in eastern Daviess County on Monday afternoon, which was still closed to traffic. He pleaded with the public to avoid walking or driving through floodwaters.
“Don’t go through any water because there may be washout. Especially in the city limits, there could be a manhole cover being washed away," Henderson explained. "There could be debris in the roadways too and you could be trapped.”
Henderson said just six inches of moving water can knock a person off their feet and only 12 inches of water can sweep a vehicle away.
The flooding has rekindled memories from 1997 when the Ohio River at Owensboro crested at 49 feet. The river is expected to crest Tuesday around 48 feet, which would be eight feet above flood stage.
Although the sky has cleared, more rain is in the forecast through Thursday. Daviess County is expected to remain under a flood warning through early March.