Disaster recovery begins
Flood clean-up still a challenge
By RANDY PATRICK
Amster Grove Road along the banks of the Kentucky River was the scene of a catastrophe.
Dump trucks and excavators stirred up dust clouds from the dried mud as they hauled away ruined belongings.
Along the road, there were piles of mattresses, furniture, appliances and bags of clothes and other items that were destined for the landfill.
Neighbors, volunteers, and county employees were busy cleaning up after the disastrous flooding at the end of February and the first of March.
Allan Curtis, the county’s solid waste program coordinator, said Tuesday his crew had filled four dumpsters that day and three the day before.
“Tomorrow I’ve got seven dump trucks coming and four dumpsters,” he said. “I’ve used every favor I’ve got.”
He said The Allen Company had donated three loads of gravel to give his crew “a dry place to work.”
He was standing in a front yard that was nothing but mud, and still slick after a week of sunny skies and warm temperatures.
“It’s going to take some time for this stuff to dry out,” he said.
Two of the neighbors, Hope Broecker and Patricia Stewart-Hopkins, had taken it upon themselves to coordinate the relief and cleanup effort.
Stewart-Hopkins and her husband Spencer had hired some men to work on the house next to their residence, which was going to be a bed and breakfast. Instead, the men were working on the cleanup, and the house had been turned into a supply depot for the relief effort. Across the front of the building, there were stacks of bottled water, and on the back deck, cleaning supplies, including more than 60 jugs of bleach just in one corner.
“We’ll use every bit of it and more, because you’ve got to bleach everything. Right down to the studs in the walls,” she said, or black mold would cover everything.
“Before you can put anything back in, it really has to dry,” she said.
The couple’s own home looked like it was under construction too, because the drywall was gone and the wood frame was exposed.
“It’s under demolition,” she said.
Along one concrete wall, she showed where the muddy water from the rising river had reached all but the top two rows of blocks near the ceiling.
“It got almost to the top of my front door,” she said.
Her neighbor, Jerome Adams, was using a squeegee to remove the mud from his father Richard Adams’ garage.
He gave a tour of their damaged home, at one point showing where the dirty water had risen to the top of the TV mounted on the wall near the ceiling of his bedroom.
“It was so far up our stairs there,” he said. “It left muck everywhere, inches thick.”
Adams said he was hauling stuff to the road or throwing it in a dumpster.
“There goes my dryer,” he said, as a track hoe carried the appliance to one of the big metal bins.
Adams, who works in automotive body repair, was able to salvage some of his expensive tools, but lost a lot of things in the flood.
He said the river rose higher than predicted and the forecast kept changing.
“It was not even supposed to come in our house,” he said. “If we had realized it, we would have had a whole lot more time to get things out.”
Stewart-Hopkins chose to look at the glass as half full.
“It gives me goosebumps that there are so many generous people,” she said. “We have already made so much progress here because of these donations, because we’re not having to run to town.”
Churches, businesses and individuals had donated — supplies, clothes, meals, water.
A donated washer and dryer set had seen heavy usage because some people were without water or electricity and their appliances were damaged.
“The people who have been here for 30 years have never seen it like this,” Stewart-Hopkins said.
It’s actually the worst Kentucky River flooding here in 43 years.
Clark County Emergency Management Director Steve Asbury said the river crested at 39.056 feet, the highest level since 1978 and the second worst flooding on record.
Asbury said the worst flooding in the county was in that area, on Amster Grove and Athens-Boonesboro Road.
“There were other homes that had water in them,” he said, “but that was the deepest point right there.”
Asbury said Emergency Management and the Clark County Fire Department, which he also leads, are doing damage assessment to report to the state, which in turn will report to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Clark County Judge-Executive Chris Pace and Gov. Andy Beshear have both declared a state of emergency.
“Hopefully, we’ll get our presidential declaration … and that tells us what type of assistance we’re eligible for from the federal government,” Asbury said.