2018-02-14 / Front Page

Ward declares emergency

Judge/Executive Jim Ward declared Letcher County under a state of emergency this week after heavy rain on Saturday damaged bridges and roads, and left motorists stranded in high water.

The Kentucky Mesonet rain gauge at Whitesburg showed 3.36 inches of rain fell from Friday to Sunday, with rain falling at more than 0.6 inches an hour at its heaviest.

Ward said county workers haven’t had time to do full damage assessments, but named several bridges that have been checked that will have to be replaced or have extensive — and expensive — repairs.

Wards said the bridge on Steel Bridge Road south of Blackey needs to be replaced, as does a bridge on CSX Road at Whitco and on Hancock Drive at UZ. A huge mud slide on Johnson Fork at Premium had to be removed temporarily Saturday night, but Ward said residents shouldn’t expect it to be completely cleaned up for a while. He said the area from which the mud came is too unstable.

“We didn’t clean it up or anything yet, we just moved what was in the road,” he said. “You can’t look up on the hill and see it. There’s more going to come out.”

That slide was estimated at eightfeet thick on Saturday.

The Cumberland River area of the county didn’t escape damage either. New US 119, which opened in December, had one lane temporarily closed after a large mudslide covered part of the highway on Saturday.

Fire and police departments spent much of Saturday night pulling stranded cars out of water. KY 931 South at Bridge Loop was particularly bad, with water halfway up the doors of some cars.

Ward said assessments will be done this week to get an idea of how much the repair costs will be.

“The bridges are the biggest money,” he said, saying the county road department could grade and gravel washed out roads without much expense.

Those bridges already assessed for damage had foundations washed away, and pillars taken out by floating logs and other debris. The bridge at Whitco, Ward said, will have to be replaced because of a center support that was knocked out from under it.

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