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Some Beattyville residents, business owners may never return

Posted at 6:09 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 18:54:55-05

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — It took some business owners in Beattyville years to open their establishments. It took fewer than 48 hours for those businesses to be destroyed.

Flooding from the nearby Kentucky and North Fork Kentucky rivers has turned the downtown area into something one can only access by boat. The flood water is being measured in feet, and the time to recover is not being measured in days or weeks.

“In all my time here, 25 years, I’ve never seen water in this situation,” said Lee County Emergency Management Director Jon Allen. “We do have some new businesses in town that are going to struggle to reopen."

Allen said it’ll take months to recover from this devastation. First, the water has to recede, and there’s still a long way to go before that happens. Then the process of cleaning up begins as the streets will be caked in mud and debris. Then there’s the other issue that’ll have to be dealt with.

“Going to be hard to tell until the water gets down and we can actually get into these buildings and see what kind of damage we have,” Allen stated.

And Allen was referring only to business owners. As we spoke with County Judge-Executive Chuck Caudill, he took a phone call from the office of Senator Rand Paul.

“From my perspective, the most devastating this for most people here is they’ve lost their homes,” Caudill said.

Caudill noted that Senator Paul, Mitch McConnell and Congressman Hal Rodgers, whose district includes Lee County, are all aware of the situation here, and have promised to provide relief in any form they can. The county will, according to Allen, make a FEMA disaster declaration.

“As a community we’ll respond as best we can, but we are an impoverished community in the best of times,” Caudill added.

Allen said nearby dams are doing their jobs, and he’s been told no more water will have to be released into his section of the rivers. This disaster was simply the result of too much rain (roughly six inches) in a short period of time, on top of the rapid melting of snow and ice we saw in the days prior to Sunday’s storm.

“It’s just a 100-year flood,” Allen said noting the severity of the situation.