What a difference a year makes!
On Monday, March 1, 2021, Lexington, Kentucky TV station LEX18 was reporting “Beattyville, a small mountain town in Kentucky, is under water following a downpour of rain this past weekend. Boats could be seen floating down Main Street. Roads, homes, cars and businesses are flooded.”
Lee County (where Beattyville is located) Judge/Executive Chuck Caudill Jr., the county’s highest locally elected official, told the news station that “most streets around Beattyville have water six to seven feet deep. County crews began evacuations Sunday night.
“We really had to do some serious lifesaving because they were literally walking out of houses with two to three feet of water in them,” Caudill said.
43-year-old Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who declared a state of emergency, described it as the “worst flash-flooding” he seen in his lifetime.
And within a matter of days, Americans Helping Americans® was there providing our largest emergency relief assistance package in our more than 20-year history with more than $200,000 in grant funding to the Downtown Beattyville Business Alliance to help the devasted businesses recover and rebuild, and to the Lee County government for residents to repair their homes – if they were not a total loss – or move, if they were.
Nine months later, TV station Mountain News WYMT of Hazard, reported that “The scars of the March flooding in Beattyville linger long after the water left” and as the rebuilding from the historic flooding continues “people are trying to stay positive.”
Judge/Executive Caudill recently told Americans Helping Americans’ Executive Director Cameron Krizek that the grant funding not only “made life more bearable” for many of the impacted residents of the county, but also “spurred other groups” to contribute to the county’s relief fund.
With the “seed planted to help people come back,” people became even more resilient, hopeful and aware that they could build back where they’ve called home for so long, if at all possible.
For the others for whom it was not feasible to return to their home, Caudill told us the money helped with relocation expenses so “they were not left destitute and had a fresh place to start.”
Regarding the downtown area which bore the brunt of the flooding, of the some 50 businesses in the end only one closed for good, while others were able to repair and refurbish their flooded out buildings. In a few cases, such as the primary healthcare provider for the county, moved to a nearby location above of the floodplain.
And with the businesses reopened, Caudill noted that that is considerably good news for the city’s and county’s tax coffers, adding that the county sent out 66 more tax bills last year than in 2020.
Among the unforeseen silver linings to come from the historic, devastating flooding was that the former Beattyville Elementary School building suffered only minor damage. Located not far from the heart of downtown, the building, which has been sitting empty since 2016 as the school board looked for a buyer.
However, the fact that the building did not suffer extensive damage during the flooding brought renewed attention by developers who are interested transforming it into affordable housing units on the upper floors and retail space on the first floor.
Last year, to protect Beattyville and Lee County from future flooding incidents, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-5th) hosted a meeting with Caudill, Beattyville Major Scott Jackson, Downtown Business Development Manager Teresa Mays, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss flood prevention options for the city, including the possibility of adding a floodwall along the Kentucky River.
“The Corps and I have a long history of working together, with successful flood control projects spanning all of our communities along the Cumberland River, the Big Sandy River and more,” Rogers stated last May. “As we begin preliminary steps, I have requested $1.25 million in federal Community Project Funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a study for a potential floodwall in downtown Beattyville.
“Our main goal is to protect families and businesses in Lee County for years to come,” added Rogers. “We never want to see a flood like this again.”
Don Begley, who owns an auto sales business right downtown which lost 120 vehicles during the flooding, told WYMT in December “We really suffered from the flood, you know, but we [are] building back.”
Caudill agrees, and that while Beattyville and Lee County may have been down for a while, they were certainly never out.
“There’s a bright future here,” he says.
And to the supporters of Americans Helping Americans® who helped make the emergency relief grant funding possible, Caudill wants them to know:
“The money just keeps on giving.”