Conservation officer says flood damage eerily similar to tornado

Emergency management says unforeseen hazards require caution

MORGANTOWN, Ky. – Flood waters and debris have already caused unknown damage in Eastern Kentucky, but beyond the obvious, unforeseen hazards lie underneath those flood waters. 

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Conservation Officer Ethan Vincent saw the damage firsthand.

“It’s devastating,” said Vincent. “You talk to someone that’s lived there their entire life born and raised there. They took pride in being from that community just like we do here.”

Vincent, among other conservation officers, are using boats, UTVs and ATVs to conduct wellness checks in Eastern Kentucky

In some areas, mudslides are blocking roadways – road tiles long washed away – leaving either walking or climbing the only options.

“Residents were trying to clean. You would see anywhere from two to six inches of mud inside the residence while flooding,” described

Vincent could only liken the damage to Kentucky’s deadly 2021 Tornado.

“The two incidents are eerily similar. Seeing the impact of wind and then going out East and seeing the impact of what water can do.”

While water and debris are the most obvious dangers, his type of flood has caused many other safety hazards.

Glasgow/Barren Emergency Management Director Tracy Shirley warns live wires from buildings or power lines pose a serious threat.

Also, flooding to this extent causes sewage overflow. That bacteria contamination risk is only worsened by Eastern Kentucky’s lack of clean water.

Another contaminant is chemicals. When the floodwaters hit Eastern Kentucky’s barns, herbicides and pesticides that are not safe for human skin join everything else in the water.

Shirley offers two pieces of advice.

“If you know the lay of the land by heart still take no chances navigating flood grounds. What you don’t know is the water may have washed away part of the roadway, and you’re not aware of it. Roadways, especially, we always preach, ‘Turn around don’t drown’.”

And if you’re up to help out in person coordinate with an authorized agency to see what they need, instead of turning up solo.

“All the help that you can give them, I’m all for. But, what we don’t need is people just showing up unprepared, untrained. They need to know who they’ve got coming in so they can keep them organized and get them where they need to be.”