Mudslides and flooding blanketed the county after 2 to 3 inches of rain fell on Wednesday.
“We have had flash flooding across the county,” said Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill. “Several roadways have been damaged. We have reports of several mudslides throughout the county. There have been homes and businesses damaged from the water. We have the Harlan County Rescue Squad along with all fire departments in the county out assessing damages and making sure their is no life safety issues. The Emergency Operating Center, here in Harlan, is open. We have contacted the state and declared a state of emergency as of now.”
McGill said there was several mudslides on KY 38, partially blocking the roadway. He said one lane of traffic was cleared for traffic to move through.
“The Clover Fork, Tri-City, Harlan and Bledsoe areas have been the hardest hit from reports we have received,” said McGill. “We encourage people to take precautions — stay off the roadways and if they encounter high water turn around. If you have damages you may contact my office at 573-6082. If we aren’t there, you may leave a message and we’ll get back to you.”
The National Weather Service in Jackson said they had estimates of 2 to 3 inches of rain falling in the Harlan County area on Wednesday. Meteorologist Ed Ray said warnings of flash flooding were issued at 9:14 a.m. and at 9:50 a.m. they had a report of “a foot of water over May Street, mudslides and a flooded business.”
“Looks like the weather will improve on today and be dry,” said Ray. “Late tonight and Friday we’ll see another round of showers and thunderstorms as a front rolls through. This will definitely add to the rain that has already fallen. You’ll probably not see the amount of rain like you saw on Wednesday, but you can expect about a 1/2 inch more with this new front coming through. You’ll see temperatures drop drastically.”
Harlan City Police Officer Britt Ross said as he was traveling home Wednesday morning at 10:40 a.m. he “drove upon” a large mudslide at the intersection of U.S.119 and KY 840 at Baxter.
“Due to excessive water and the ground moving below the trees it caused mud, trees and debris to partially block KY 840,” said Ross. “Some of the trees fell just in front of Lakis Mavinidis’ vehicle. The Harlan Fire Department and county workers helped clear the roadway.”
Harlan Fire Department Chief Linette Hutchison said she had reports of mudslides affecting the homes on Ivy Hill and Ivy Street in Harlan. She said the residents were advised to evacuate.
“The city engineer, Leo Miller, and his staff have been examining the structures to assess the damages,” said Hutchison. “At Rax Restaurant, the best we know is runoff water near the Sunny Acres First Church of God washed down and overwhelmed a culvert causing flooding in the parking lot and inside the building. There were 6 to 8 inches of water inside the building. There was a lot of flooding on Ready Mix Road in Harlan and behind Village Center Mall. There were two horses in a barn behind the mall and the water was up to their bellies. The property owners were able to go down the railroad track and free the horses as our personnel arrived on the scene.”
Hutchison said the pump station was activated because the ponding area was filling up with back water from the river.
“We had to close the sluice gates,” said Hutchison. “When it rains all the storm drains go down to the ponding area and then they drain out to the river. Well, the river got so high we had to shut the sluice gates.”
Cliff Feltham, statewide media relations manager for Kentucky Utilities Company, said there were two reported outages in the Harlan area on Wednesday.