Into the flood: Clark County on the front line in southeastern Kentucky

Published 3:10 pm Monday, August 1, 2022

Last week, catastrophic flooding killed 30 people in southeastern Kentucky and displaced countless families.

Thankfully, help came to the mountains by the caravan from around the Bluegrass State, and individuals from Clark County – including local emergency rescue personnel- were on the front lines late last week.

Winchester residents Holly Lovings and David Gillaspie own rental property in Perry County and decided to head east Thursday to survey the damage to their houses in Jackson and Hazard.

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The couple did not make it far once they hit the county line.

“Due to road breaks, the landslides, and the waters, we could not even get close,” said Lovings in a phone interview with the Sun on Friday.

Based on the information the couple initially gathered, the outlook for their homes is not good, according to Lovings.

“At this point, I think we have probably lost it,” she said. “The only reports I can see are from the Hazard police. There are multiple landslides on our street …  In 2020, our backyard flooded pretty extensively, and it got into the basement, but it is not a livable basement. It is more of a storage area. The water was not as bad then, but we think the multiple landslides probably impacted our house.”

The sheer suffering of local residents stood out – even to Lovings, who has a background in social work and is used to dealing with crises.

“When we got there … I saw about 15-20 people who had been water rescued. Most of them had animals. So we were able to support those families and get the little animals food. They were waiting on a shuttle bus but said it could be hours. So, David and I loaded up all the animals and their owners in our truck – we had individuals in the back of our truck and the front cab just trying to get them to the shelter.”

Some individuals only made it out of danger with a companion animal and the clothes on their backs.

“There was this lady who had been water rescued and was holding her little Yorkie. She said, ‘Honey, I didn’t even have time to put my breeches on’”, Lovings said. “She had lost her pants during the water rescue, and so they had put one of those stretchers that I think they put bodies on – a portable stretcher – around her just to keep her covered, and just by chance, David had said to pack clothes for the night. Thankfully, she could fit into my pants.”

While supplies for people are needed, there is also a growing need for animal supplies.

Lovings is active in a Facebook group dedicated to the recently deceased “town dog” Romey and was aware of collection efforts before she left Winchester.

“Before we even left the Romey [Facebook] group – you know us, we gather stuff when people need things – so the Romey group members had already donated cat food, cat litter, and supplies. So David and I went over to Heather Rose’s house, stopped at Abettor Brewery, and picked up some cleaning supplies that people left over there,” she said.

According to Lovings, there is a need for crates, leashes, and other essential pet supplies at places like the Kentucky River Animal Shelter or emergency shelters that are allowing pets to stay with their owners.

And while Lovings was in Perry County, Winchester residents like Brooke Rannells spearheaded the donation efforts for the four-legged folk.

That part of the story will be covered in part two of Into the Flood.

Winchester Donation Hubs

Abettor Brewing Company – Depot St

Contact: Tyler Montgomery

Where: 128 N Highland St.

When: Until no longer needed

Contact: Ryan Dotson

Where: Winchester Plaza

When: Aug. 1-3 10:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day

Kentucky Woodwork

Contact: Andrea Clark 859-595-9335

When: Aug. 1-4

Call Andrea, and they will pick up all donations. Donations will be leaving for Knott Co. on Friday, Aug. 5.

Bill’s Carry Out

Contact: Sherry

When: Aug. 1-3 from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Location: 731 N. Maple St.

Donations will be leaving Wednesday and Thursday.

Winchester Police Department

The police department is accepting gift cards for evacuees housed in certain Wolfe County Schools, which will be used to purchase items not received through donations for evacuees.

When: Aug. 1-5 at 3 p.m.

Where: 16 S. Maple St.