flooding

Threat of Flooding Rises Across Kentucky

Feb 12, 2020
National Weather Service

The entire Commonwealth of Kentucky is under a flash flood watch as rains move in Wednesday afternoon and evening.

A low-pressure system originating in Texas has moved up through the Mississippi Valley gathering moisture from the Gulf and the Pacific, said Brian Schoettmer, National Weather Service Meteorologist in Louisville.

“It’s basically like a steady stream of moisture over the area then you get a surge of surface low [pressure] that moves up from Texas that brings that last little punch in,” Schoettmer said.

Kentucky Division of Emergency Management

Emergency crews in Kentucky are monitoring continued rainfall that poses the risk for a second round of flooding in some counties. 

Many homes were damaged and several people had to be rescued from their vehicles last week in some of the worst flooding to hit the region in decades.  Michael Dossett, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management, says the flooding rivals the historic 1977 flood that resulted in ten deaths in eastern Kentucky.  A 74-year-old man from Whitley County who was reported missing last week was found dead in his submerged car on Monday night.

Eight counties in southeast Kentucky are under a state of emergency.


Sydney Boles / Ohio Valley ReSource

Heavy rains caused extensive flooding across eastern Kentucky this week, and city and county officials say it could take weeks to fix some of the damage.

Some residents were evacuated from their homes, and officials across the region declared states of emergency, including mayors in Whitesburg and Jenkins, and county judges in Letcher, Harlan and Knox counties.

“We want people to understand that they’re safe. They’re out doing everything they can do, from the volunteer fire department pumping out basements still today, to the city workers,” said Jenkins Mayor Todd DePriest.


Kara Lofton/WVPB

The rain came hard and fast early on the morning of June 23, 2016. By 2 p.m., water was knee deep in Bill Bell’s appliance store on Main Street in Rainelle, a small town on the western edge of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Bell began elevating the washing machines and dishwashers, thinking that would be enough. Within hours, he’d lose it all. Today, his shop is up and running once again, but the memory of the flood runs deep. 

“To be honest with you, everybody here sleeps on pins and needles when it calls for a big rain,” he says.


Appalachia’s Strip-Mined Mountains Face A Growing Climate Risk: Flooding

Nov 22, 2019
Jack Spadaro

VARNEY, West Virginia — Pigeon Creek flows through a narrow mountain hollow along a string of coal mining communities, its water trickling under the red and yellow of the changing fall foliage.

The tranquil scene belies the devastation the creek delivered one night a decade ago as heavy rain fell on soggy soil and thousands of acres of nearby strip mines. Witnesses spoke of awakening in the dark of May 9, 2009, to the sound of rushing water like they had never heard before, entering their homes from underneath their doors.

Disastrous Disconnect: Coal, Climate And Catastrophe In Kentucky

Oct 28, 2019
Illustration by Joanna Eberts

This story is part of a series about the insufficient protections for vulnerable people as natural disasters worsen in a warming climate. The Center for Public Integrity and four partners – the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, High Country News, Ohio Valley ReSource and StateImpact Oklahoma – are contributing stories.

REGINA, Ky. — Todd Bentley stepped onto his porch and saw the storm swelling the creek near his home. If this kept up all night, he feared, the creek could overflow its banks and wash out his neighborhood’s road. He headed out into the rain with his teenage son to secure his mother’s trailer across the street.


Chris Conley/twitter

The high water level of the Ohio River has the Owensboro-Daviess County region under a flood warning until Friday, Feb. 22.  Many roads are closed and the county is handing out sandbags on Saturday morning.

The Ohio River in Owensboro is in a prolonged ‘minor flood’ stage caused by excessive rain, with the flood warning in effect due to the on-and-off small amounts of rain, snow and sleet predicted to last through the weekend. 

Daviess County Emergency Management Director Andy Ball says this is not a flash flood situation like the one that put much of the Owensboro riverwalk and many roads and acres of farmland under water last February. 


Daviess County Emergency Management

Much of Smothers Park along the Owensboro riverfront remains under water from recent rains and floodwaters. The Ohio River crested near 48 feet on Tuesday, about eight feet above flood stage.

John Clouse is deputy director of Daviess County Emergency Management. He says an inch or more of mid-week rains are expected to keep the river above its banks a while longer. 

"We should see a gradual but steady decline in the height of the river. Somewhere around Friday or Saturday we should see some significant droppage," said Clouse. "A couple feet here, a couple feet there, which when you’re talking about something the size and the width of the Ohio River, that’s a considerable amount of water.”

Lisa Autry

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.

Kyeland Jackson

The Ohio River reached its crest Monday afternoon and officials say it will take several days for the water to return to its normal level and for floodwaters to recede.

Heavy rains over the past week caused widespread flooding in communities along the river, forcing people from their homes and prompting numerous road closures.

Officials say once the waters recede, the next steps are damage assessment and debris cleanup.

Photos by Kara Lofton, illustration by Jesse Wright, WVPB

Harvey. Irma. Maria. The hurricane season’s super-charged storms have highlighted the importance of disaster planning, and the aftermath offers a fresh lesson in just how long and difficult recovery can be.

Communities in the Ohio Valley, some still recovering from flash floods themselves, are looking at ways to prepare for what emergency management professionals warn is an era of more frequent extreme weather. 

It’s time, experts say, to get ready for the new normal.


Barren River Animal Welfare Association Facebook

Friday morning rain has led to flooding in parts of the region, causing some school systems to call off classes, and low-lying areas to be inundated with water. 

A flash flood warning was in effect for Bowling Green and surrounding counties in southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee until Friday afternoon. Water crossed over roadways and heavy winds knocked down trees across some streets.

Warren County Road Division removed 15 trees blocking roadways as of early Friday afternoon.

Bowling Green Warren County Regional Airport has recorded more than five and a half inches of rain. The Kentucky Mesonet, based at Western Kentucky University, recorded rainfall amounts of more than seven inches in Todd and Logan counties.