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Hundreds homeless in weekend flooding

BY HENRY BRIER | PIKEVILLE, Ky. | August 6, 2001


"It's the oddest flooding I've ever seen."

—Kurt Pickering


Residents in Appalachian mountain communities in eastern Kentucky, Tennessee and western North Carolina were picking up the pieces Monday from weekend rains that damaged hundreds of homes and left as many as 200 people homeless.

The storm also flooded roads, swept away bridges, knocked out

electrical power, snapped water lines cutting off water supplies, and prompted officials to issue "boil water" orders to ensure that water was safe for drinking.

Some residents were trapped in their homes and cars. Others climbed trees or scrambled to the roofs of their homes to escape the rising waters.

One person in eastern Kentucky is confirmed dead and a second is missing and presumed dead, according to Pat Conley, a spokesman for the state emergency management agency.

In Washington County in eastern Tennessee endured significant residential damage while neighboring Greene County sustained road damage, according to Kurt Pickering, a Tennessee Emergency Management Agency spokesman.

Greene County was hardest hit in Tennessee, Pickering said, noting 250 homes were damaged -- some of which were destroyed. In Washington County, 55 homes, most of them mobile homes, were destroyed.

"There's widespread damage in pockets. It's the oddest flooding I've ever seen," Pickering said, adding it began Saturday before 3 a.m. "It was a classic flash flood. It came and went in a hurry."

The affected region, including at least six counties in Kentucky, was

swamped by the rains late Friday and early Saturday. The hardest hit

areas in Kentucky were Pike and Floyd counties.

The flooding in Kentucky began just before midnight on Sunday, resulting in declared emergencies in Floyd, Knott, Letcher, Perry and Pike counties, Conley said.

Some Kentucky regions endured 4.4 inches of rain in less than four hours, which Conley called "unprecedented."

"These are flood-prone counties," Conley said. "The residents say that's the worst they've ever seen in terms of the swiftness and suddenness of the water."

Officials said some 200 homes in Floyd County suffered some flood

damage while damage to homes in Pike County in the easternmost part

of the state was mostly confined to flooded basements. Two homes were

reported destroyed in Letcher County and another 20 residences were

damaged by flash flooding in Knott County, according to emergency

management officials.

Other areas hard hit in Kentucky included Harrison, Scott and Bourbon

counties, which were still recovering from a flood which struck that

area two weeks earlier. Roads were also reported flooded in Perry,

Harlan, Knott and Leslie counties.

In Tennessee, the flooding left about 200 people homeless according to a spokesperson for the Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Management Agency.

Some areas reported receiving more than 9 inches of rain, which

forced creeks and streams in Greene County to spill their banks.

Some roadways and bridges were washed away, officials

reported.

Flash floods were also reported in neighboring North Carolina, but it was a relatively routine event according to Tom Ditt, a spokesman for North Carolina Emergency Management Agency.

"All we had was just heavy rain," he said "There are narrow streams that can only hold so much water. This was not anything out of the ordinary."

Twenty houses in Madison County, N.C., were damaged, he added.


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