Flooding hits Middlesboro, Bell County

Published 2:04 pm Sunday, March 28, 2021

Heavy rains resulted in flooding in Middlesboro, Bell County, and surrounding areas early Sunday morning.

Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock gave an early assessment of the event on Sunday morning.

“Flooding is widespread across the county, it appears the south end of the county particularly Middlesboro is the hardest hit,” Brock said.   “We won’t know the extent of any damage until the water recedes.   As of now, I don’t have any reports of anyone being hurt.”

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In a telephone interview at approximately 11 a.m. on Sunday, Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson said things started to look bad in Middlesboro around 4 a.m.

“I’m comparing this to the flood we had about this time last year, and it appears this particular flood is a little bit worse,” Nelson said. “Water seems to be a lot higher than it was last year.”

Nelson said the city began addressing the flooding immediately.

“Our street department was out real early and starting to block roads, the police department was out helping, and the fire department has been figuring out some emergency routes just in case one route was blocked,” Nelson said. “We’ve had several water rescues so far. I believe we’re in a little bit worse shape than we were last year.”

According to Nelson, the water must recede before any damage can be estimated.

“Traditionally it goes down pretty quick, but right now we’re not seeing a whole lot of movement either way, down or up,” Nelson said.

At the time of the interview, it was not known when the water would crest.

“We’re not really sure how much more rain we’re going to get,” Nelson said.

Nelson commended Middlesboro Street Department Superintendent Kevin Barnett for his quick action.

“Early this morning he went and got all of our equipment out and put it on the mall parking lot, just in case the water got high enough to get inside the street department building,” Nelson said. “We were able to not only save that equipment, but we were able to use it…that was a good move.”

As of the time of the interview, Nelson said there were no reports of injuries.

“Right now, we’re in a protection mode, trying to protect the public,” Nelson said. “We’ve also contacted the Governor’s Office to make the Kentucky Department of Emergency Management aware of what’s going on.”

Nelson pointed out the city keeps a close eye on rain events due to Middlesboro’s history of flooding.

“A few weeks ago, the flooding missed us,” Nelson said. “It hit a lot of eastern Kentucky pretty bad, but we were spared. This time, it’s just the opposite.”

Nelson said there will be more information available on Monday, but for now, the public should stay home if possible.