By: Madison Fugate
Yet another natural disaster hits Powell County hard, except in this instance the amount of overpowering precipitation left Judge Executive James Anderson the difficult responsibility of signing a declaration of emergency for Powell County. With this declaration, Anderson encouraged all residents to avoid any and all areas typically impacted by flooding, particularly in the downtown areas of Clay City. The statement encouraged citizens to reach higher ground with this bit of information for a better understanding of how crucial the impact of this flooding was, “Water is still rising aggressively at this time, and even the most conservative estimates project this flooding event to be second only to 1978 in terms of volume.” The floods were at historic levels and the Red River crest was projected to reach up to 24.5 feet as of the early morning hours on March 1st. This is the second worst on record for Powell County, with the previous largest record set at 26.8’.
Later in the day, in the early afternoon of March 1st, as flood waters continued to rise throughout Clay City, Anderson issued two executive orders to protect the citizens of Powell County from any further avoidable disasters. As a result of these two executive orders, an official order was signed barring all non-essential travel in the Clay City area. Several roads throughout the county were shut down as well to prevent unsafe traveling and many small businesses in Clay City were largely overwhelmed with the amount of flood waters overtaking their city. Images taken by several local citizens and first-responders showed evidence of the impact on businesses, churches and other organizations throughout Main Street of Clay City. With no way to avoid the flood waters nearly engulfing the majority of the town, firefighters were utilizing back roads in order to be able to launch boats to rescue people whose homes were flooding. Many pets were also rescued by first-responders who dedicated several hours to assisting the needs of several citizens left from the trauma.
With conditions this severe, it made it difficult to be prepared for this sort of natural chaos. The Red River Museum were forced to relocate items in the museum to protect the history therein. Car dealerships in Clay City pleaded for assistance in moving cars. One local business, Jimmy’s Tire and Lube Center, issued a statement on March 1st offering their parking lot as a sort of safe haven if anyone needed a place to park their vehicle to keep it safe from the flooding, they also offered their services as they may be able to assist in moving vehicles or whatever other way they may be able to contribute to the community. There was later a Clay City Flood Relief gofundme page organized where anyone may have the opportunity to donate monies for relief efforts. The Stanton Tourism and Convention Commission organized a list of potential needs for the area to assist in relief efforts and requested those donations be dropped off on Wednesday, March 3rd. The Powell County Tourism Commission shared a gofundme link as well to contribute to the relief funds of the Red River Gorge area.