Eight months after flood, downtown Beattyville still bouncing back

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Posted at 4:38 PM, Nov 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-01 18:20:09-04

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Right now is leaf-peeping season across Kentucky, especially Red River Gorge which is bursting with color.

One of the counties within the natural attraction is Lee County, which, after eight months, is still recovering from the flood in March.

On March 1, a source of beauty in Beattyville, the Kentucky River, swallowed up Main Street.

Businesses were destroyed, and the high water sent the community to higher ground.

"It's been an emotional roller coaster honestly, to see where we were on that day and to see where we've come from," said Jon Allen, Director of Public Safety.

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Beattyville as it appeared on March 1, 2021 (top) and October 2021 (bottom)

After a couple of months, Allen returned to his Main Street office in the Lee County Courthouse. He's watched as dump trucks and the sound of construction gave way to "open" signs at storefronts.

"Local people, neighboring counties, different states, and different organizations that helped the city and the county to get back on its feet," said Scott Jackson, Mayor of Beattyville. "Without Main Street, you don't have a town."

Hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations helped offset some of the costs and lost revenue. The massive rebuild included Beattyville City Hall.

"Every day, we're showing progress," said Jackson.

There are a few businesses that will not reopen on Main Street, including a tattoo shop and a restaurant that was just off the road. But the fun events have returned to this area.

The well-known Woolly Worm Festival, a homecoming for many Lee Countians, came back with a bang in October and brought a shot in the economic heartbeat of the county.

As the calendar turns to November, there are still reminders of the flood.

"We pray that we never have that again, but at the same time, we're prepared for it," said Allen.

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The Kentucky River behind downtown Beattyville on 11/01/2021

But the changing leaves bring a time of optimism and excitement for the future of Main Street.

Allen says the county is still working with FEMA on public infrastructure projects, including repairing roads and bridges destroyed by the flood.

He says electrical work is still needed at the courthouse which will cost thousands of dollars.