Residents in the Big Creek community began a frustrating clean-up after a flash flood hit the area late Monday night, flooding the local elementary school, homes, and vehicles, while other property in the area also sustained significant damage.
Pleas Spicer, a resident on Big Creek, said it was approximately 9:30 p.m. when the storm hit, and it didn’t take long for the water to flood his yard.
“Like four minutes,” Spicer said. “It came up in four minutes.”
Shawn Brewer owns a mobile home where two vehicles washed downstream from another residence she owns before colliding with a bridge. Water stood several feet deep in the yard before receding, destroying two small buildings and her mother’s car still parked in the driveway.
“We’ve lost everything in the yard,” Brewer said, adding later that she didn’t have insurance on the home. “Mom’s car is gone. It destroyed it.”
Brewer said a federal mine inspector had stopped, and she had heard from neighbors that FEMA officials were in the area, but hadn’t spoken with them as of the early afternoon on Tuesday.
The two vehicles lodged against Brewer’s bridge also significantly damaged the structure, and she said it wouldn’t be safe to drive across it.
Alvonda Ronnebaum, a neighbor, said she heard the vehicles crash against the bridge and feared someone may have been inside. Along with her son and his landlord, she said they were able to determine no one was inside either vehicle.
Farther downstream, staff at Big Creek Elementary will also have a major clean-up job ahead of them as several inches of flood waters entered the school. Administrators and central office staff with the Perry County School District assessed the damage there Tuesday morning. Principal Jeff Castle said the main thing to remember is that no one was injured or inside the school at the time of the flood, but he expects an intensive cleaning effort to get the building ready again for students.
Every room in the school, from the kitchen to the classrooms, was inundated with water from the nearby creek. Flooring in the cafeteria was bowed upward, and Castle said that will be just one thing of many that will need to be repaired or cleaned moving forward. Assessments were still in the early stages Tuesday morning, and he could not give a time frame for when the clean-up might be complete.
Jimmy Coyle has been an employee at the school for the past eight years, and said he couldn’t remember flood waters reaching the school while he has worked there, though another employee said the school was similarly flooded 10 years ago.
Coyle also declined to estimate how long it might take to clean the school.
“It’s according to what we’ll have to do,” he said. “Every room’s got it.”
Magistrate Ronald Combs surveyed the area late Monday night, and along with other members of the fiscal court was set to see the area again Tuesday morning.
“Just guessing and looking from the main road, there’s at least 25 trailers and homes that got flooded,” Combs said.
WYMT-TV in Hazard reported that some residents were evacuated from the area before the flood waters crested. No injuries have been reported.
Judge-Executive Denny Ray Noble said flood water reached his yard in the Chavies community, while flooding also affected the Brownsfork area. State Rep. Fitz Steele surveyed Big Creek and Browsfork on Tuesday, calling the damage “unreal.”
Clifton Watts, a life-long member of The Church of Christ in Brownsfork, had started cleaning the flooded church Tuesday afternoon, where mud and debris filled the parking lot and the carpet in the church was saturated with water. He said although a few inches of creek water filled the church Monday night, this was not the first or the worst time the church had been flooded.
"It wasn't real bad. I mean, it's been up higher than this before, you know. That's probably been about seven or eight years ago," Watts said.
Watts, who lives a few miles up the road from the church, said he was lucky not to receive any damage to his home or property though the water covered many roads and yards in the area.
"It looked like a big river coming through," he said.
Watts said the church does not have flood insurance and will be cleaning up the mess left behind by the flood waters on its own.
"This is all a flood plain, that's why you can't hardly get insurance. We had it and we cancelled it. They won't hardly give you nothing for a flood," he said.