On the Floods in East Kentucky

Spring in East Kentucky is getting wetter. Annual rainfall has increased by 5% since the beginning of the 20th century, and many cities and towns have seen record rainfall in the past decade. East Kentucky was declared to be in a State of Emergency during the February 2020 floods, and also saw record flooding in 2018. Flooding is intricately tied to the health of our water systems as a whole, and though we may not be able to prevent flooding all the time, there are things we can do to mitigate destruction, prepare, and clean up afterwards.


What causes flooding? The watershed – the system by which our water travels from the sky to mountain streams to bigger creeks and rivers and finally to the Mississippi – can become overwhelmed by a lot of rainfall all at once. However, these floods can be worsened by erosion of streambanks, development in the floodplain, and removal of trees and shrubs next to waterways. We have the power to lessen the impact of floods by keeping a strip of dense trees and shrubs growing on either side of every creek, river, and stream.

In the Event of a Flood

Floodwater is dangerous in lots of unexpected ways. Many of us know the common-sense rules, but they still bear repeating: Turn around, don’t drown! Standing water can be deeper than you think, and even a few inches of flooding can cause loss of control in a vehicle.

Floodwaters contain lots of dangerous objects and substances, such as:

  • Downed power lines
  • Human and livestock waste
  • Household, medical, and industrial hazardous waste (chemical, biological, and radiological)
  • Coal ash waste that can contain carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic, chromium, and mercury
  • Other contaminants that can lead to illness
  • Physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris
  • Wild or stray animals such as rodents and snakes

If you come into physical contact with floodwater, wash the area as soon as you are able with soap and clean water, or if no water is available, sanitizer or alcohol. If floodwaters or flotsam enter an open wound please seek medical attention if possible. Use rubber boots, gloves, and goggles when entering floodwater, and wash all contaminated clothing.

Returning to Your Home

Make sure your electricity and gas are off before returning to your home. Cover holes, reinforce sagging floors, ceilings, or roof sections, and check for broken or leaking pipes. Dry out your home by lowering its humidity. Open doors, windows, closets, and cabinets, as well as run fans and dehumidifiers. Any surface touched by floodwaters needs to be removed and/or properly cleaned. Floodwaters are dirty and can often carry things such as hazardous chemicals, human waste, or other contaminants, so proper protective gear and cleaning is critical.


For flood relief: With Love From Harlan is donating clothes to all affected. For more information call (606) 273-7626 or stop by 101 Maypother St, Loyall, KY.

Gmail and PayPal: floodreliefkyswva@gmail.com

This information was summarized from this helpful pamphlet – more info available here: https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/gpo2638/fema_p234_complete.pdf

Medical information from CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/floods/floodsafety.html

Would you like to talk more about mitigating flood risks to your land? Email us and we can connect you to information!

Stay safe, plant trees, and take care of each other!

<3 the Headwaters team.

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