Officials say Pike flood damage is the worst in years

PIKEVILLE — Mike and Rhonda Thacker sat with neighbors watching Kentucky Power trucks and friends' ATVs and cars navigate the pitted and cracked road.

They breathed a sigh of relief about 3:30 p.m. Monday as the power came back on, and the news moved down the creek as fast as Saturday's flash flood had.

Visiting state and local officials said flood damage in Pike County was the worst they have seen in many years because of the speed of the water that rushed down Raccoon Creek, Chloe Creek and others on Saturday night.

Gov. Steve Beshear visited Raccoon on Monday morning before meeting with county officials to assess damage.

"It's amazing the force of that water and the devastation it carried," Beshear said.

Two people died in flooding Saturday night. Danna Walters of Pikeville was swept away by Chloe Creek between 8 and 9 p.m. Saturday and found later in the Pikeville city pond about 2 miles away. Pike Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said Monday morning that it was still unclear how she ended up in the creek.

Craig Morris, a Knott County resident who worked as a coal truck driver in Pike County, stopped Saturday on a U.S. 119 overpass overlooking Zebulon, apparently became dizzy looking at the rushing water in Raccoon Creek, and fell over the side to his death.

About 1,000 people were without power Monday night; 12,000 people had no running water, but that number was expected to drop to about 3,000 by Tuesday evening, said Brandon Roberts, spokesman for the Pike County judge-executive's office. He said 25,000 people were on a boil-water advisory.

On Monday, Powells Creek residents recalled their shock Saturday evening when they watched slabs of pavement flip end-over-end as the fastest flash flood in anyone's memory swept down toward Millard in Pike County.

The water "body-slammed that pavement," said Mike Thacker, who has lived on the creek 44 years.

Floodwaters swept dirt and rock down the hillside into the back of Thacker's house, up to the knob on the back door. His son's Jeep was resting on the creek bank 25 feet down the road from the driveway where it had been parked.

Rhonda Thacker was on the phone with their home insurance company, trying to figure out whether they will be able to repair their double-wide trailer, whose floor was coated with mud. She fought back tears with a wry smile. Mike Thacker was hoping for clean running water soon, so he could clean up his Harley.

Twenty-five to 50 people used shelters set up by the county Sunday night, officials said.

John's Creek Elementary School had some flood damage.

Officials compared the extent of damage to Mother's Day weekend flooding in 2009.

State Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, during a news conference with the governor, said creeks started rising and flooded within 30 minutes to an hour, much faster than last year.

"Last year there were more areas involved," Beshear said, but "it did not have the force that this did this time."

Beshear described seeing houses swept off foundations, mobile homes leaning against power poles, cars in creeks and devastated people.

He said the state has contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Atlanta, and inspectors will be touring the area Tuesday.

"It's scary, I'll tell you. It was scary that night," said Ricky Chaney of Millard.

His wife, Lisa Chaney, captured video of water rushing down and overflowing their established drainage ditch. She said she could hardly hold the camera still Saturday night, for fear.

A natural gas line above their property broke, and the couple's electricity was out until Sunday. They have water in their basement, but the house is livable.

Their dog survived four or five hours under the porch, miraculously, they said. They thought he was lost.

Officials said that if the flooding had happened after dark, instead of just before sundown, more lives might have been lost.

"I know we're lucky, though," Lisa Chaney said. "Compared to what some have."

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