Spirit of eastern Kentucky remains unbroken after devastating floods

by Jacob Fuller

Vicky Arias, FISM News


The people of eastern Kentucky endured one of the most catastrophic floods on record at the end of July. As of today, the floods have claimed 39 lives.

According to the National Weather Service, “rainfall totals observed between [July 25 – July 30] across eastern Kentucky were over 600% of normal … [enough to] overwhelm any area, simply due to the very high rainfall rates. The estimated peak rainfall totals of 14-16″ from the 26th through 29th are historically unheard of. There is less than a 1 in 1,000 chance of that amount of rain falling in any given year over a 4-day period.”

Destruction ripped through portions of Clay, Breathitt, Leslie, Perry, Knott, Letcher, and Owsley counties, causing homes, schools, and livelihoods to come crashing down in a matter of hours.

Schools have been washed away, leaving many children, already weary from the floods, without a sense of normalcy. The New York Times reports that “twenty-five school districts were affected by the floods, with more than a dozen buildings severely damaged and unfit to hold classes this year.”

A teacher in Perry county, Chasity Short, will be teaching her third-grade class “out of a refurbished girls’ locker room this year” with Short adding that the educators in Perry County are willing to “teach out of anywhere,” The Times report stated.

In an interview obtained by FISM News, Bobby Johnson of Altro, Kentucky, explained that Buckhorn School in Perry County is almost completely submerged underwater, causing a delay to the start of the new school year. Students who normally attend Buckhorn must register and be transported to other schools.

The delay comes as many students were set to begin a return-to-normal school year after covid lockdowns were lifted.

“Most of the people are doing pretty good despite what they’ve been through,” Johnson said.

Johnson, whose home narrowly escaped destruction, feels lucky to have been spared. He and his family, including his infant grandson, fled their home as heavy rains inundated his neighborhood. While three of his neighbors’ homes were destroyed, the flood waters reached only as high as his floor.

Additionally, flood waters destroyed the Altro Church of God in Johnson’s town. The first Sunday after the flood, on August 3, congregants brought their own chairs and held church in the parking lot of their beloved church home. They have since begun meeting in the borrowed building of a nearby church and started a GoFundMe campaign to rebuild their church building.

Mold has also become an increasing concern as waterlogged homes and debris have become breeding grounds for fungi. Lisa Stamper of Perry County stated that “the floods destroyed the roof of [her] home…causing black mold to grow.”

A report from the Northern Kentucky Tribune warns that “mold will be a major issue” for folks trying to clean up after the waters recede. While many people are dealing with dangerous mold, “[others]… are staying with family members and friends, [living] in their damaged homes [or] are sleeping in tents outside their old homes,” according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Samaritan’s Purse, an organization founded by Franklin Graham, has dispatched “more than 700 volunteers so far [in an] effort across the two eastern Kentucky counties where hundreds of homeowners have requested assistance.”

Ronnie and Holly Banks, a couple from Breathitt County, are among those whom Samaritan’s Purse has helped. They nearly lost everything. Four feet of water poured into their home and filled it with mud. Samaritan’s Purse helped clean it up, spray for mold, and put the Banks family in a position to start again.

“[We are] learning about the calm after every storm and [what] God … wants us to see in the storm,” Ronnie Banks said.