Kentucky begins to dry out and clean up after ‘heartbreaking’ flood

Published 1:59 pm Sunday, March 7, 2021

Standing in the gooey, dank-smelling muck coating the floor of her mobile home in Beattyville, Cindy Spencer considered how she would describe the experience of being flooded out, of losing keepsakes her kids made in school, of having to dig through the soggy debris of her life to salvage some clothes.

“Only words I can come up with is heartbreaking and devastating,” said Spencer, 43. “You’re hopeless. You don’t even know where to turn.”

Spencer was among dozens of people displaced from their homes in Lee County early Monday when heavy rains swelled the Kentucky River to levels not seen in decades and sent brown water surging into downtown Beattyville.

Lee County Judge-Executive Chuck Caudill Jr. said the water reached a depth of six to seven feet in town.

The flood inundated at least 20 businesses in town and numerous homes in Beattyville and the county.

“It’s the worst in anybody’s memory,” Caudill said of the flood.

Electricity was still out in downtown Beattyville Wednesday, but business owners and their employees, as well as residents, throughout the town of about 1,200 were starting the daunting jobs of figuring out what could be saved and cleaning up.

Amid the hum of generators and the growl of equipment scooping mud from streets, people used brooms and squeegees to push mud out of businesses onto the sidewalk, then hosed it into the street.

They put items that might be salvageable, such as chairs, on the sidewalk to dry, carried items that couldn’t be saved to dumpsters set up on Main Street, and figured out what it would take to get back in business.

At the Kentucky Farm Bureau insurance office, agency manager Robbie McKinney and his wife, Cheryl, along with a team that came from the Louisville office to help, carried out equipment with the plan to set up an office in temporary space in town.