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Conservation officers help to evacuate flood victims

Conservation officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources spent several days evacuating people in the wake of severe storms, flooding and mudslides that claimed at least four lives and closed dozens of roads across the commonwealth.

“Our officers have the specialized training and equipment that allows them to help victims of natural disasters,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jon Gassett. “This weekend, they’ve been out saving lives.”

In Metcalfe County, conservation officers Jeremy McQuery and Brian Gibson rescued an elderly lady after waters from the Upper East Fork of Little Barren River surrounded her home. With waters still rising, rain hammering down and a treacherous current, the officers successfully guided their boat across extremely swift water — a four-hour ordeal — and brought her to safety.

“Tremendous efforts,” said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Capt. Todd Rogers. “The things they had to do just to get to her were almost impossible. Those waters were extremely swift and dangerous.

“It was one of those situations where we had to do something,” he said. “We just can’t tell someone who’s in trouble that we can’t come. Their efforts were tremendous.”

In Jessamine County, conservation officers Rufus Cravens and David Marques loaded a sheriff ’s deputy and a firefighter into their rescue boat and launched it onto flooded waters of the Kentucky River. They carefully navigated the swift waters for about a half mile, barely clearing utility poles and power wires, to rescue Jonathan King from the front porch roof of his two-story home on Hunters Ferry Road. King told the offi cers he had been stranded on the roof about seven hours, after waters rose too quickly for him to leave.

In Lincoln County, an elderly man was attempting to cross the high water of Hardwick’s Creek Road when the current swept his car away. Conservation Officer Chad Rice, Stanton Police Chief Kevin Neal and members of the Stanton Fire Department used ropes and harnesses to bring him to safety.

They repeated the ropes and harness rescue on the same road at Frames Branch, pulling two men to safety whose truck was swept about 30 yards off the roadway. Rice also helped set up emergency shelters at two churches and brought oxygen patients to shelters. Rice went house to house to check on homeowners, helping them move cars and furniture away from the rising waters.

In New Haven, conservation officers patrolled city streets by boat after the Rolling Fork River flooded the town.

On Herrington Lake, conservation officers Damon Foster and Greg Hill rescued a man stranded when the King’s Mill Marina broke away from its mooring and floated downstream.

Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency, and urged people who encounter high waters to use extreme caution and avoid unnecessary contact with floodwaters.

Conservation officers assisted numerous agencies throughout the state and were at the forefront of many similar rescues and evacuations.

The department urges all motorists to use extra caution when driving in flooded areas, and never cross a flooded roadway. Be aware of electrical hazards near flooded structures, and the dangers of floodwater contaminants to well water and food.

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