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'I've seen flooding, but never anything like this': Hundreds in Breathitt County evacuate from homes

Breathitt County flood.jpg
Posted at 3:59 PM, Mar 01, 2021

JACKSON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A portion of Breathitt County sits along the banks of the North Fork Kentucky River. When the water level is normal, it’s a picturesque setting. But when it’s cresting at a level that’s several feet above normal, it can present a life-threatening situation.

“I looked out the window when the fire department came, and it was everywhere. And it rose about two feet in less than an hour,” said Rachel Nobel.

Nobel, like many others in the county was forced to evacuate her home due to those rising river levels. She’s now sheltering inside the Breathitt County High School gymnasium, where county officials set up a temporary home for those who have been displaced.

“It’s amazing. You really don’t see a lot of places pull together like this, helping people,” Nobel said.

Sunday’s storm, which led to this catastrophic flooding, had many in the county echoing the same sentiment.

“This has been the biggest since ’84,” said James Campbell, who was also forced to evacuate and find a cot in the gym.

“I’m 39 years old, and I’ve seen flooding, but never anything like this,” Nobel added.

Along the banks of the North Fork is where Buck Fugate lives. If the water level holds at its current level, his home will be spared. If.

“You can see over there where those blue tarps are,” Fugate said while pointing at his backyard. “It’s (water) all around, but I’m hopeful. Pray to God it don’t happen,” he said of the water penetrating his home.

But that scenario is still very possible, even without rain in the forecast. Dams will likely have to be opened in surrounding counties, which will release all of their water into this section of the river. One person familiar with the situation said the level could rise another three to four feet by the end of this week.

“I packed up everything in the basement, and put it in my garage,” Fugate said.

That buys him a few extra feet. He’s hoping that’ll be the difference.

For others, it wasn’t nearly enough, as one resident of a mobile home park off KY-1812 could be seen paddling a kayak around the neighborhood.

“It’s a bad time,” Fugate understated.