MAGOFFIN COUNTY – As the area continues to recover from the recent ice storm, Eastern Kentucky was pummeled with nearly 5 inches of rainfall Sunday, making all roads impassable with floodwaters and mudslides, closing off Salyersville and leading to the evacuation of the nursing home.
At press time, Magoffin County and the City of Salyersville remains under a state of emergency, though all roads are passable.
The Licking River crested at 20.36 feet on Monday, putting this flood at the third highest since the cut-thru was finished in 1997 and ranking 32nd overall in Salyersville’s historic crests.
Eerily similar to the 2019 flood, the Salyersville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was evacuated to the Herald Whitaker Middle School or local hospitals on Sunday, with residents returned to the nursing home the next day. Roads inside the city limits were closed to traffic, which helped keep the floodwaters from being pushed into the nursing home with this flood.
Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd told Mortimer Media Group on Monday, “We were watching Burning Fork and State Road Fork closely and it was sort of a two-prong attack, so when the water started to rise the nursing home decided to evacuate.”
The Magoffin County Rescue Squad received dozens of calls regarding to people trapped in high water, but due to the poor road conditions, were not able to respond to every call.
“In Bloomington and 460, by the time the river came down, it blocked the road in eight places and we just couldn’t get to them,” Rescue Squad Captain Carter Conley said. “On 1081 the water was 10 feet deep at the church, so we couldn’t go that way. Thankfully, locals got boats and helped get people out and we really appreciate those people.”
In total, the rescue squad did five water rescues, including a two-hour rescue on Lick Branch (behind Lee’s Famous Chicken) that took mutual aid and stronger boats to get to the stranded motorist, who was stuck on top of his car.
The rescue squad couldn’t deploy the swift water boat because the water was moving too quickly and, with the strength of the motor, they were afraid they would hit the motorist’s car, which he was standing on, and jeopardize his safety even further.
Salyersville Fire Department and Prestonsburg Fire Department both attempted to reach the man with their ladder trucks, but the ladders were not long enough. Floyd County Rescue deployed a larger boat and was able to retrieve the man, but their boat was punctured in the process, barely able to get out of the water safely.
“People did not heed the ‘turn around, don’t drown’ saying and the conditions were so bad we couldn’t get to everyone,” Conley said, reminding the public of the dangers of driving through floodwaters.
Magoffin County Judge/Executive Matt Wireman told Mortimer Media Group, “It was a major problem that was creating emergencies, when simply staying home would have eliminated that from happening, putting more lives in danger.”
Over 20 calls in total came into 911 for some type of rescue and the community center was opened as a temporary shelter Sunday night, with at least 10 people staying there at any given time throughout the night.
The city and county continue to assess the damages to property and the roads in order to file for assistance from FEMA.
While two years ago Magoffin was deemed ineligible for individual aid from FEMA, Wireman said he hopes they will qualify this time to help residents hit hard by the flood.
Those who have property damage from the flood are asked to document everything and to call the judge’s office at 349-2313 in order to be put on their list. They will survey the damages and include that in their application for assistance and Magoffin County will have to meet a threshold to receive individual assistance from FEMA.
“This flood was a lot more widespread than the 2019 flood, so we’re starting the process and recording everything,” Wireman said.
That process, unfortunately, comes on the heels of the county finishing up the damage assessment from the ice storm.
Wireman said Wednesday that he currently has four pages of items related to the roads that need fixed, from damaged tiles, washed out culverts, broken roads and more.
“Everyone needs to understand we are trying to keep the roads passable, but permanent fixes are coming,” Wireman said.
For those cleaning up their flood-damaged property, Wireman noted that Rumpke is accepting flooding debris at their transfer station on US 460 West from people who have active and in good standing accounts. There will be no additional cost for dropping off flooding debris and Rumpke will be accepting those items through March 19.
As of Wednesday evening Wireman said they are working on getting cleaning supplies, which will be distributed from the community center when available, but noted that everyone in need as a result of the flood needs to call the judge’s office to get on the list.
Mayor Shepherd said he expected the city’s damages to exceed $100,000 this time, noting that this flood was more destructive than the 2019 flood.
He explained that there will be some areas that need fixed on Coal Branch, but the newer repairs made after the 2019 flood held this time.
Shepherd also noted that the city will be applying for FEMA assistance with the county, explaining that even damages in the city limits will need to be registered with the Magoffin County judge/executive’s office at 606-349-2313.
If you have flood damage, contact:
Magoffin County Judge Executive’s Office
Lakefront Church of God
Food, Clothing, Household Items, etc.
Christian Appalachian Project
Ask for housing division
Rumpke Transfer Station
On US 460 W
Taking flooding debris from customers with active accounts at no extra cost through March 19.
*This list will be updated as information becomes available*