Flash flood in Pike County causes death, destruction

Homes, cars, roads washed away; federal disaster declaration expected

shopkins@herald-leader.com dhjalmarson@herald-leader.comJuly 19, 2010 

  • Mountain Water District advisory

    A boil water advisory has been issued for the following areas. Water used for drinking or cooking should be boiled at least three minutes before using.

    Peyton's Creek

    Powell's Creek

    Red Creek

    Winwright Road

    Marrowbone Creek and all side hollows

    Elkhorn City

    Greasy Creek

    Ferrells Creek

    Feds Creek to Nigh Bridge and along U.S. 460 to the Virginia line

    Big Branch

    Raccoon Creek

    Slone's Branch

    Jimmies Creek

    Harless Creek

    Daniels Creek

    Pompey

PIKEVILLE — On Sunday, Pike County officials toted up the county's losses from Saturday's flash flooding: two dead, 10,000 without water, 200 homes damaged or washed away, 100 cars destroyed, and numerous roads and bridges washed out.

Four to seven inches of rain fell from 4 p.m. Saturday until 1 a.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency in the county and planned to visit the area Monday.

"It's awful," Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said in a statement Sunday. "I've never seen anything like it in all my years of public service. It's a disaster if I've ever seen one."

Rutherford said the county probably will meet the criteria for a federal disaster declaration. He said some brick houses were washed off foundations, double-wide trailers floated down roads, and people were rescued from trees and the rooftops of their homes and vehicles.

"This looks like we've had a tornado instead of a flood," Rutherford said in a telephone interview Sunday evening.

Craig Morris of Carrie died after he fell off a bridge Saturday on U.S. 119 in Zebulon as he was looking over the side to check on a family member's home.

Donna Sue Walters of Chloe was found dead at a Pikeville pond Sunday afternoon, Coroner Russell Roberts said. No other details about Walters and how she died were available Sunday.

About seven people were waiting for Red Cross volunteer Amanda Presley when she arrived at an emergency shelter at Pike Central High School on Saturday night.

By Sunday night, there were about 35 people there, she said.

Presley said she didn't know how long the shelter would remain open, but she said she had heard it could be a week before the roads can be cleared by fire department officials.

"We're not just going to close it and them have nowhere to go," Presley said.

But she was not sure what plans the Red Cross had for housing people.

Melissa Ratliff of Pikeville was driving home from Elkhorn City on Saturday night during the storm. Traffic stopped on U.S. 460 between Harless Creek and Marrowbone for almost an hour. Ratliff said U.S. 460 was closed because of a rock slide, and water was starting to rise on the road.

"Most of the mountain was in the road," Ratliff said.

Emergency officials eventually directed the vehicles over the large rocks and through the water, Ratliff said. She drove her 2005 Pontiac Sunfire over the debris and to her house, which was not affected by the flooding.

"I've never had to drive through water and over rocks to get home," said Ratliff, who added that she was grateful to be alive.

Many homes throughout the central part of the county were without tap water, and a boil-water advisory will be in effect when water service resumes, officials with Mountain Water District said.

About 10,000 people were without water Sunday afternoon, according to Rutherford's office. Water distribution points were established at the Feds Creek, Ferrells Creek, Millard, Lookout, Marrowbone, Johns Creek, Elkhorn City and Kimper fire departments.

Kentucky Power reported that 6,262 customers had power outages during the heavy winds and thunderstorms Saturday night, including residents of Greenup and Boyd counties and more than 5,000 in Pike County, or 14 percent of its customers there. As of 8 p.m. Sunday, about 1,710 customers in Pike County still were without power, Kentucky Power spokesman Ronn Robinson said.

Robinson said power might not be restored to everyone until late Monday.

Emergency officials said 200 houses were damaged, and some were washed away. Roads and bridges were dealt a blow, and more than 100 cars were wrecked because of the floods.

In addition to the one at Pike Central High School on U.S. 119, shelters were open at Pikeville United Methodist Church on Main Street, Cedar Bottom Church in Kimper and the Pike County homeless shelter.

Anthony Richey, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the highest amounts of rain were concentrated northeast of Pikeville, from Zebulon to Phyllis.

Some areas had 1 or 2 inches of rain an hour, "which is incredibly high rainfall rates," Richey said.

Additional thunderstorms moved through the area Sunday afternoon.

Rutherford said all the key players will meet Monday morning to assess the damage.

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