You can always tell when it’s spring in Kentucky by the surprisingly warm temperatures that suddenly drop, by the gentle rains that suddenly become a deluge, and by the flooding. It rained over 4 inches today, according to the local TV station, and it was even heavier yesterday and last night. A flood warning is in effect here until 5 AM Monday. The river is supposed to crest at 35 feet, or the « get the hell to higher ground stage » as I call it. Flood stage is 36 feet. We’ll see what happens. Needless to say there large crevices where roads once were, power lines are down and many people have been displaced, at least temporarily and now the weather dude is saying to expect snow in the higher elevations. Ah spring….
Thirty years ago, the first week of April, we had one of the worse floods this narrow valley had ever experienced. Of course there had been floods before and there have been floods since, but the ’77 flood was a doozie.
I’ve been lucky when it comes to high water. I live on a hill and if the water were to ever get this house, there would be nothing left down river. I was also lucky during ’77. The water came up fast, really fast and the force of the water was like nothing ever seen here. I had grown up hearing about the big flood of 1957, but ’77 would be given the title, once held by ’57, as the most destructive. The dam wasn’t very effective because the water that created the flood came out of Virgina and bypassed the dam.I remember thinking that we would probably lose water service, and phone service and maybe the power so even though I was young, I was sharp enough to start collecting water. I had water in everything you could think of. I know it sounds silly, all that rain coming down and I was worried about water. But I knew that I would need water for drinking, cooking, and for washing. I also knew that the toilet would have to be flushed so the washing machine was used to store water, the bathtub, and the trash cans were cleaned and filled along with every bottle, kettle and cooking pot. Sure enough the phone went out, the water went off, but luckily the electricity stayed on.
I sat and watched the water rise that day and after it was too dark to see, I still waited and watched. When daylight arrived I saw nothing but raging, muddy water and houses floating past.
I could hear the crash as the houses hit the bridge and the sounds of debris washing into the homes that had stayed on their foundations but were submerged.
It took about 4 days for the waters to subside enough for people to begin the trek home. Some families were separated and trying to locate each other. The HAM operators and CB operators worked in conjunction with the local radio stations. They were able to relay messages to families, locate missing people and give some relief to an already stressful situation. I remember how relieved my mother was to finally hear from me, as she had been stranded at the hospital taking care of patients and I was now unreachable by phone or auto because the bridge was gone.The entire Big Sandy Valley and beyond was declared a disaster area. the national guard was called in, FEMA set up shop and everyone began to clean out the mud and salvage what they could.
And here we are again. Rain coming down, water coming up and everyone is holding their breath. I’m still sitting on this hill and watching the water rise as I have for many, many floods. I’ve not collected water and the electricity hasn’t even flickered but there are people out there tonight who are not as lucky as I am. I hope they will all be okay when the dawn breaks and the water starts to go back into the streams and river.
I’ll keep ya’ll informed if possible.
Stay high and stay dry.
Five Feet High. . . and Risin’
How high’s the water Mamma? Two feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Pappa? She said it’s two feet high and risin’
Well we can make it to the road in a home made boat
‘Cause that’s the only thing we got left that’ll float
It’s already over all the wheat and oats
Two feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Mamma? Three feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Pappa?
She said it’s three feet high and risin’
Well our hives are gone,
I lost my bees
Chickens are sleepin’ in the willow tree
Cows are in water up past their knees
Three feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Mamma? Four feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Pappa? She said it’s four feet high and risin’
Hey, come look through the window pane
The bus is comin’, gonna take us to the train
Looks like we’ll be blessed with a little more rain
Four feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Mamma? Five feet high and risin’
How high’s the water Pappa? She said it’s five feet high and risin’
Well the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can’t come back ’till the water goes down
Five feet high and risin’
Well it’s five feet high and risin’