“I can’t remember the last time the water was this high,” was the overwhelming public consensus on social media following the February 11 and 12 flooding in Knox County. As the water rushed over major roadways, several parts of the county were at a standstill while waiting for the flood water, the highest we’ve seen since 2002, to go down.
The flooding occurred after multiple days of heavy rainfall. According to Kentucky Mesonet, the Commonwealth’s official source for weather and climate data, Knox County received a total of 4.04 inches of rain on February 10 and 11. When all was said and done, the Cumberland River in Barbourville crested at 37.8 feet, narrowly missing the major flood category by four inches.
This was the biggest crest Barbourville has seen since March 2002 when the river reached 38.67 feet. In comparison to more recent events, the flood in March 2015 reached 35.62 feet at the river.
As of press time, officials are still in the county assessing damages. So far, no major flood related damages or injuries have been reported. Flood water did cover several major and minor roadways and, despite sandbagging around buildings, seeped into residential and church basements.
“Planning ahead really saved us,” said Mayor David Thompson. “If we hadn’t removed those motors from the splash pad and all that stuff from Thompson Park, we’d really be hurting. But we came out pretty good.”
Perhaps the biggest flood related incident occurred with a Knox County Utility Commission water line. The company reports the mountain at the beginning of Stinking Creek washed out, causing a break in their main water line in the process. This left 350 people without water for approximately 24 hours and an additional 30 for even more time. 14 families in the Bimble area were also without water for more than 24 hours while crews waited for flood water to go down so they could get to and fix that water line. The line break also caused a system-wide boil water advisory to go in effect for the 1,900 Knox County customers for multiple days.
Knox Countians are not completely out of the woods, either. With more rain predicted later this week, further precipitation has nowhere to go due to the ground already being oversaturated. This will pose a continued risk to citizens, especially when traveling.
“Exercise caution when traveling on Knox County roadways through the next week due to significant flooding. Do not take risks and attempt to pass through flooded roads. Water levels can actually be higher than they appear. If in doubt, turn around, don’t drown. If you encounter an emergency situation with flooded roadways, call 911,” said Knox County Sheriff Mike Smith.
According to Knox County Judge-Executive J.M. Hall and Emergency Management Director Todd Owens, there is isn’t enough county-wide damage to apply for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assistance. They said homeowners should consult their insurance policies for coverage.