Eastern Kentucky Residents Steadily Moving Forward Following Summer Floods

Sep 30, 2015

Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    It’s been over two months since an eastern Kentucky flash flood claimed lives, homes, and belongings.  The tiny community of Flatgap in Johnson County took a major hit.  WEKU's Stu Johnson visited one family in the area that's still working to pick of the pieces.

Rain fell late last week in Staffordsville, a reminder of the torrential rainfall in mid-July that created an historic flash flood.  Markita Trent and her family saw four trailers in their neighborhood get hit by rushing waters. "When the flood hit, it just tore us all apart," Trent said. "It just totally wiped us out, nobody could control anything. The water was in control so, it’s just been devastating for real.” 

Trent’s new home is undergoing substantial refurbishments and is far from any waterway.  She says she hopes to grow old in the brick house.  “We just gotta start fresh, hope for the best and get in the house and just make new memories instead of dwelling on old ones,” she said.

Construction is a major part of recovering from a flood.  At the house in Staffordsville, walls have been torn out, floors have been pulled up, and there's new electrical wiring.  A new roof is on the way. Robbie Taylor will also live in the new house. He says he’s moved by the community support they've received.  “I think it’s amazing how people just step in and help you," Taylor said. "I’ve never met these people before in my life and it just touches my heart.  I didn’t know there were people like that."

One of the non-profit organizations helping with cleanup and rebuilding is ‘Good Neighbors.’  The group works with low income working families.  President Jason Benedict, who’s originally from Minnesota, says he got the inspiration to launch the organization ten years ago after his dad spent time in eastern Kentucky.  “My dad had met Carl D. Perkins in the late 60’s, early 70’s so he had been out in this area and had always just loved it here," Benedict said. He said his father enjoyed "the stories and then coming out to volunteer.  Loved the people.  Loved the lay of the land and everything,” said Benedict.

Veronica Marcum also works with Good Neighbors.  Her family suffered great loss in the flash flood when her brother and grandmother died.  Her brother tried to save their grandmother and both were swept away.  Veronica says the community is working together to move forward.  “There for the longest time I thought our community was just dwindling down and people didn’t care about each other, but through the flood, it amazed me how this little small town pulled together" Marcum said. "And we’re survivors, and we’re gonna help our neighbors.  We’re gonna get through it.” 

Also on site is 20 year old T.J. Bowen.  He is an aspiring electrician who’s been doing a great deal of wiring at the new house.  “Actually, I got interest in it when Good Neighbors built an addition onto my house and then I helped wire it," Bowen explained. "I then I was like, that’s pretty neat and that’s what I decided to go to school for.” 

Larry Dalton has been with the organization for nine years.  He was afflicted with polio decades ago and has been in a wheelchair since the early 1980’s.  Dalton wields a hammer and electric saw throughout the day from his chair, wheeling from room to room.  He says people often ask why he does this type of work.  “Yeah I get that question asked, 'why are you trying to do something like that?'  It’s just been my love," explained Dalton. "I love carpenter work.  The skill I’ve been blessed to be able to do it." 

There's lots of equipment sitting along Big Mudlick Creek and personal items can still be seen along the banks and in the trees.  While much cleanup has been done, rebuilding for many is just beginning. Markita and Robbie both know seeing their new house fully finished is still months away.  But both also know that recovery comes a step at a time.