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Magoffin devastated by flood

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Photos submitted to the SI on Facebook

 

IMPORTANT NUMBERS

If you have flood damage, contact:
Magoffin County Judge Executive’s Office
606-349-2313

Salyersville Fire Department 
(for property damage in the city limits)
606-349-3256

FOR ASSISTANCE
Christian Appalachian Project 

866-270-4227

Red Cross
Sally Jo Evers
606-432-4383

Lake Front Church of God 
606-349-6301

St. Luke’s Catholic Church
606-349-5320

*This list will be updated as information becomes available*

 

MAGOFFIN – As the region was pummeled with rain over the weekend, widespread flooding, mudslides, and road damages led to a state of emergency being called for the county, as well as the state.

With the ground already saturated, when the hard rains hit on Saturday, the water had nowhere to go but up. By 9 p.m. on Saturday, February 23, at least eight roads were reported as having water over the road or blocked by mudslides, including the Mountain Parkway, which was shut down at mile marker 66. By 10 p.m., authorities were urging residents to stay off the roadway and by 11:30 p.m. Magoffin County Judge-Executive Matt Wireman had declared a state of emergency for Magoffin County. 

Around 2 a.m. on February 24, crews started evacuating residents at the Salyersville Nursing Home. At that point, all roads were deemed impassable. 

By 8 p.m. Sunday over 30 roads were still impassable, but the water was receding. The nursing home residents were back in the facility by late Sunday night, with no damage reported where the residents stay.

On Monday, the Independent talked to various officials for an update on the community.

Magoffin County
Magoffin County Judge-Executive Matt Wireman explained they had been monitoring the weather situation due to the recent rains we’ve had and the ongoing road issues they already knew about, but he had not anticipated the massive amount of rain the community received Saturday night.

“Once I saw it coming this way, I spoke to Deputy Judge Howard, but it just hit all at once,” Wireman remembered. “It wasn’t the tornado, but similar.”

Wireman was landlocked at his residence on Route 7, so he had Howard go to 911 and set up a command center, as well as open up the community center for an emergency shelter. 

At 5 a.m. Sunday morning Wireman called his staff and had them meet him at the county garage at 7 a.m., and they spent the day addressing and identifying needs throughout the community.

“I drove over 200 miles in Magoffin yesterday,” Wireman said,

He has been meeting with a contractor to help fix county roads they don’t have the equipment for, but he said this will be a long process. 

By Wednesday, Wireman said all but one or two roads are at least passable, now, but he is looking into getting road plans approved for more permanent solutions, noting as an example that Lummie Lemaster Road (off of Mine Fork) has a temporary low-water bridge now, but he hopes the state will approve the construction of a new bridge there.

He also said there are a number of washed out culverts and bridges on personal property they cannot touch with county equipment, but once the federal aid is approved, those types of things will be covered.

“It’s been a countywide effort,” Wireman said, commending everyone that has chipped in to help.

Wireman also reminded everyone affected by the flood, including residents, churches, business owners, etc., to contact the county judge’s office by calling 606-349-2313.

The information gathered will be reported to the state and will help them have accurate numbers in regards to the aid needed for this community.

He urged everyone to take pictures of all damage and to keep records of receipts and money spent on the cleanup and repairs.

“We’re hoping to get the federal declaration, but we’re not expecting anyone to wait on that to clean up the mess,” Wireman said. “Document all expenses, take pictures of everything and we’ll try to make sure everyone gets what they’re entitled to.”

He told the Independent on Wednesday afternoon he had been advised that the governor’s office has provided all documentation to the president and they are awaiting the federal declaration of a state of emergency at any time. After that occurs, federal agencies, such as FEMA, will be able to allocate money and resources to the communities affected by the flood.

“It’s truly a blessing with the sheer amount of people being impacted, there was no loss of life,” Wireman concluded. “We’ve got a lot of great first responders in this county.”

City of Salyersville
Salyersville Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Paul Howard made the call Saturday night to evacuate the nursing home, something he said they’ve only had to do one other time since he’s been there, talking about the Memorial Day 2004 flood.

“The ’04 flood was deeper, but it was river flooding,” Howard remembered. “This one was more of a flash flood and State Road Fork and Burning Fork had a lot of water coming down.”

Howard said the evacuation went well, but it was just time-consuming. He was able to pull resources to transport the residents in handicap school buses, the nursing home bus, and ambulances. 

“We had a lot of volunteers and there were no major issues, it was just time-consuming,” Howard said, noting it took over six hours to transfer everyone safely.

By the next evening, he said they also helped in transporting the residents back to the nursing home, using a Health Preparation Coalition bus, out of Pikeville, which was able to transport more people at a time. 

Howard asked everyone affected by the flood in the Salyersville city limits to call the Salyersville Fire Department at 606-349-3256 and report the property damages, explaining he also had to report to damages to the state. 

While the numbers were still preliminary, on Monday he was estimating the city’s damages to be around $3 to 4 million, not including private properties. 

He also noted that the process of receiving federal aid will likely take a long time, asking everyone to not get discouraged, but to keep thorough records.

Speaking to where his focus was, Howard forgot to mention the fire department had also been flooded, with crew members working to clean up the station earlier this week. We’re told North Magoffin Volunteer Fire Department station also flooded, though we don’t know the extent at press time.

Salyersville Mayor James “Pete” Shepherd said there’s a little bit of damage everywhere, but it will be a big job to clean up.

Ramey Memorial Park was particularly hit hard, so he said they would be focusing on cleaning up the debris and replacing the fences, hoping to have the ballfields ready to use by spring. 

He said Coal Branch had some significant damage, but he’s waiting to see if he could get funding to fix it right in a way that will prevent future flooding issues.
More information will be released as it becomes available.

School District
Thankfully, none of the Magoffin County schools were damaged in the flooding, but the school system’s focus this week has been on where they can get the buses.

Superintendent Scott Helton explained they had to call off school on Monday due to so many roads still being impassable, and used Tuesday as a day for bus drivers to take the buses out on their routes without the students to see where they could go.

Helton said on Monday they were coordinating with the county judge and mayor to make sure as many roads were passable as possible before having school, again.

On Wednesday they had school on a one-hour delay, with many buses having to drive alternate routes. Helton said on Wednesday afternoon that the morning bus run went smoothly, with no complaints, though everyone had been contacted beforehand and all were understanding of the changes. 

“Our first thing is safety,” Helton said. “We don’t want to put kids in danger.”

Helton said they were happy to be able to offer the middle school facility and buses for the nursing home evacuation, noting that the local officials orchestrated everything and it all seemed to run smoothly. 

Currently, the last day of school for Magoffin County Schools is in the first week of June, though that is with keeping spring break in the calendar. Changes to the school calendar will be reported as information becomes available.

Rescue Efforts
Saturday night was an eventful night for the Magoffin County Rescue Squad, with crews rescuing numerous people and losing several vehicles during the severe weather.

“People don’t realize when we go out, we put our lives in danger, too,” Magoffin County Rescue Squad Captain Carter Conley told the Independent.
Conley said they were helping the highway department with mudslides until roughly 10 p.m., when they started getting bombarded with 911 calls of flooding on the roadways.

One vehicle turned over in the water, but they were able to get everyone out safely. By the end of the night, they would perform five water rescues out of vehicles.

The rescue squad evacuated 18 people using the swift water rescue boat, which was damaged heavily in one of the rescues near the Salyersville post office. 

After that, the Floyd County swift water rescue team helped rescue six more people from the Cheyenne area of Rt. 7. 

While five or six people had to be taken to the hospital during the nursing home evacuation, Conley was happy to report there were no serious injuries or fatalities that night.

“It was a trying time, but as we always do, we worked through it and we do what God gives us the hand to do,” Conley said. 

While one rescue worker was responding to a call, a tree fell on the vehicle on Superior Hill, busting out the windshield and minorly injuring the driver.

“He was taken to the hospital and treated, but he’s here helping, again, today,” Conley said on Monday. “We always want to go out, help and go back home, but we never know what will happen.”

In total two trucks owned by the rescue squad are currently out of commission, one on loan from the forestry division was destroyed, as well as the swift water rescue boat, leaving them with three working rescue vehicles.

“We’re just thankful no one in the community lost their lives,” Conley said. “We lost equipment, but we’re still out here helping and providing services like we always have.”

One of the squad’s vehicles stalled out on Rt. 40 in the flood waters, but that wasn’t the only one they lost that night.

State Level
Representative John Blanton, who is also from Magoffin, was actually flooded in at his home on Saturday night, but stayed on the phone all night, working to get the people volunteering to help that night the resources they needed.

“I have been working continuously with local officials and the governor’s office since Saturday night to ensure that every resource is available to assist our people during this disaster,” Representative Blanton told the Independent.

On Monday Governor Matt Bevin declared a state of emergency for all of Kentucky and we are told President Donald Trump has been given the papers to sign regarding a federal state of emergency. We will release information regarding any further declarations as it becomes available.

Quick History
Before the cut-through was finished at the end of 1997, flooding was pretty common for Salyersville. We’ve received pictures of flood waters in downtown Salyersville as far back as 1939, but have been told 1962, 1978, 1981 and 1984 were all very significant floods, as well. Since the cut-through, however, there’s only been one reported at the disaster level. During Memorial Day weekend in 2004, often referred to in the previous interviews, flood waters reached similar levels as the one last weekend. The nursing home was evacuated that time, but the evacuation did not go quite as smoothly, we’re told, with one bus stalling out (while full of people). For more from past floods, see page A9. 
 

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Heather Oney