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Pandemic hobby becomes lifesaver during Kentucky flooding

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Posted at 6:36 PM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 18:37:27-04

KNOTT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — When the flood hit eastern Kentucky, everyone did what they could to help their families and neighbors, but one man took his pandemic hobby and used it to save lives.

When Larry Adams noticed the water in the creek near his home was a lot higher than usual, he knew what that meant, having grown up in a river bottom.

Flood waters are almost impossible to navigate by foot and even in boats, but kayaks are nimbler. Adams rushed to get his bright yellow kayak to the community he grew up in to check on his family.

"I was just thankful I'm a kayaker, that I had a means to get to them. Flood waters are hard to navigate in boats with propellers because of debris, but those little white-water kayaks will go anywhere you want them to, and I knew if someone was here, I could get to 'em, so that's what I did," said Adams.

With no cell service, internet or power, Adams didn't know what to expect. He could barely see anything over the high water and was navigating by rooftops. Thankfully, he knew the area well.

"As soon as I rounded the house, I saw that Chloe was on the roof of the garage," said Adams.

His cousin Chloe swam to a roof where she sat for hours on a pillow with her dog, waiting to be rescued. He still doesn't know how she got on top of the roof, having swum with one hand in treacherous water.

"When the water got up to where she knew it was go-time, she made that incredible swim," said Adams.

For only having started kayaking two years ago because of the pandemic, Adams and his kayak became a lifeline. He and his kayaking buddies were able to go to places rescuers on boats and cars were not able to.

"They needed guys who could navigate rough water, and luckily that's what we do," said Adams.

On Friday, four of his friends joined him in recovering the bodies of two missing children in Knott County.

"We're used to swift waters, but we're not first responders. We're not used to seeing what we saw on that day," said Adams.

It's an image he says he will never get out of his mind but finds comfort in the fact that they were able to give the family of the victims some sense of closure.

The water that covered his family's yards is now flowing calmly in the river, replaced with several inches of caked mud. Adams can still see the cushion on that garage roof.

"It's a reminder of how lucky we are," he said. "We've lost everything but a lot of families have lost family members."

Now they're trying to figure out how to get help from everyone else. He says they're just not seeing the number of people they truly need on the ground helping feed people and clean.

"What we need is more people here helping these individual families, and we need it fast. It's a dire situation," he said.

Adams hopes his family's story will help bring more attention to their community and the need for more help.