Woods says school in Lawrence possible Monday…
The hits from winter keep coming.
Lawrence Co. EMS director Michael Woods gave his account of an emergencythat took place in lawrence County Friday:
“…Lowmansville Fire Department, City of Louisa Fire Dept, Lawrence Co Search and Rescue, Lawrence County Emergency Management and Netcare Ambulance Lawrence Co. responded earlier today to KY 1760 due to a lady in labor. All units responded due to KY 1760 still being blocked by water and possible road conditions to residence from 1760 due to snow. Multiple units were blocked either by water or snow but crews were able to reach mom and transport her to TRMC. Mom arrived just in time to be taken directly to labor and delivery where she gave birth.” He did not reveal the names of those involved.
Just as Eastern Kentucky began to get over the effects of the previous two winter storms, the region was again targeted by a wintry system that brought heavy rainfall, several inches of snow and river flooding to many areas. Numerous problems, including flooded residences and rockslides, with resulting road closures, plagued areas of Pike county, with the Pikeville/Coal Run area, as well as the South Williamson areaseemingly taking the brunt of the storm’s wrath.
Officials began monitoring river levels Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s flooding. Pikeville 911/Public Safety Director Paul Maynard said the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River reached levels to which it had not swollen in a decade.
“This is the first time in the 19 years I’ve been here that I’ve seen the flood gate deployed,” Maynard said. “We’ve had high water before on different events, but we hadn’t gotten to the stage in the protocol where we closed the flood gate.”
The flooding problems began to develop as heavy rain fell throughout the day Wednesday and into early Thursday, before transitioning into yet another round of snow. According to the National Weather Service website, more than three inches of rain fell on Pikeville and many areas of Eastern Kentucky from Tuesday evening to Thursday. Pete Geogerian, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said the flooding setup has been building over the past few weeks.
“The setup was really a combination of two things: First, all that snow that we’ve had in the past few weeks that lingered, especially a deeper snowpack that lingered in the headwaters of the Levisa and Russell Forks,” he said. “Then you get a heavy rain on top of that and some warm temperatures.”
The snowmelt, plus several inches of rain over the past few days provided the necessary ingredients for the river flooding seen Wednesday into Thursday.
As of midday Thursday, Geogerian said, the water level of the Russell Fork River was coming down “at a pretty good clip.” The expectation that the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy, which has a flood stage of 35 feet, would crest in the early afternoon was realized, as the river, according to the NWS website, crested 40.4 feet at 3 p.m. Thursday, the ninth highest recorded crest for the river.
It’s been decades since the river has seen the kinds of heights reached this week, Georgian said.
“This is going to be highest preliminary crest since 1984,” he said. “We haven’t seen a 40 foot (level) in Pikeville since 1984. We got close in 2003. They were at 39.97, but they did actually go a little bit over that in this one.”
With the high level of the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River, some areas along the river from Pikeville to Coal Run Village saw water creep up the banks overnight and eventually spill into some low-lying areas in riverside neighborhoods and into residences. Members of the Pike County Technical Rescue team, with assistance from members of the Floyd County Rescue Squad, assisted two Coal Run residences by boat to safety after the residents’ homes became surrounded by water and responded to a call of a family at Mossy Bottom that needed evacuation.
Belfry Fire Chief, and technical rescue team member Nee Jackson said his team was busy during the response to the flooding. He said that after conducting rescue operations around Pikeville, his team returned to the South Williamson area, where they continued to monitor the Tug Fork River, which had not crested as of News-Express presstime. Jackson said Ky. 292 was impassible in several areas Thursday afternoon, including near the Tug Valley ARH Regional Medical Center in South Williamson and the roadway would not be passible until the Tug Fork recedes.
“We’re really in a holding pattern and just waiting to see what we need to do,” he said. “There are a lot of places that are isolated — Turkey Creek is isolated, Slaters Branch is isolated, places like that.”
Jackson said he had not received any reports of water in residences along the Tug Fork.
In Pikeville, the river, before cresting, came within feet of U.S. 23 near the intersection with U.S. 119. Water overtook areas of Adam Estep’s Used Cars and entered the building of the Liberty Tax office on Estep’s property. The river also overtook the new access road between the Walmart parking lot and the Pikeville Commons shopping center.
Maynard said some residences had water problems in basements.
“Obviously, low-lying areas were in danger of flooding and some did,” Maynard said. “None of the water in any of the residences was significant, but Liberty Tax, in particular, got hit really hard.”
Even after the rain and snow storms conclude, bitter cold which was set to befall the region late Thursday and early Friday sparked concerns for further problems.
According to the National Weather Service, temperatures were set to fall into the single digits Thursday night and early Friday before warming to the 40s and 50s over the weekend. Those changing conditions have some officials concerned with the possibility of land slides resulting from freezing and thawing.
The rains leading to Thursday’s flooding caused some land slides Wednesday, including one at Shelbiana which knocked a mobile home off its foundation and a large slide on Chloe Ridge in downtown Pikeville which did not damage any structures. Bypass Road in Pikeville was closed Wednesday evening after a large mud slide came across the road and threatened an adjacent housing project. Other smaller slides also occurred Wednesday and a larger slide blocked U.S. 460 between Millard and Marrowbone Thursday morning.
Pike Emergency Management Director Doug Tackett said his office is ready to respond in the event land slides continue to be problem.
“With the way the ground is saturated, slides like those are a concern,” he said. “There’s not much you can do but be ready to go to them and take them one at a time.”
Jackson said slides could make more roadways in the county impassible and could cause damage to structures.
“The stability of the land is a big concern after an event like this,” he said.
However, Georgian said there’s some good news in the forecast.
“Things should actually calm down nicely,” he said. “It looks like we’re headed into a drier and warmer pattern. We’re going to have the warmth to get rid of the snow, but it’s also going to be, fortunately, dry, so that’ll be a good combination to kind of settle things down.”
The waters along the river at Prestonsburg and Paintsville, he said, were expected to crest and come down some by Friday morning.
Further up the Levisa Fork in Lawrence County EMS director Michael Woods had some advice for school officials.
“As of 4 PM today (Saturday) we will be moving down to a Level One Emergency,” Woods said on his website. “Roads have improved from both snow and water. We still have several slick roads and a few still under water so we will remain at Level One for tonight into tomorrow.
As for my thoughts on school, if tomorrow (Sunday) was a school day I would think it would be closed but with another warm day tomorrow I would think Monday could be a possibility depending on side roads.”
By Chris Anderson, Appalachian News-Express