Flood waters recede; Sunday morning rains flood Middlesboro, Bell County

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Sunday morning arrived in Bell County with floodwaters rising all over the county. The floodwaters are now gone, and the amount of damage can begin to be assessed.

According to Bell County Judge-Executive Albey Brock, the entire county experienced flooding, with the city of Middlesboro being the hardest hit.

He also explained the county overall has seen worse flooding events.

“We’ve got some damage, but not to the degree overall that we had this time last year,” Brock said. “As far as the number of folks impacted – with the exception of Middlesboro – it’s not as bad as what we’ve seen in the past.”

Brock said the county is looking into requesting aid from the state.

“We’re doing assessments,” Brock said. “I’m afraid we probably won’t meet the thresholds for assistance, but we’re going to take all the steps that are necessary to see if we will.”

Middlesboro Mayor Rick Nelson explained there are no firm numbers available concerning flood damage in the city of Middlesboro as of yet.

Middlesboro Street Superintendent Kevin Barnett pointed out some of the city’s drainage system was impacted, but there is no information available at this time concerning damage to buildings or other city structures.

“All the roads are clear, the water has gone back down to normal levels,” Barnett said.

Barnett confirmed while some water did enter the Street Department garage none of the city’s road equipment was damaged, having been moved to a safe location prior to the flood. The hardest-hit sections of the city included the downtown area and 15th Street.

“There was probably four to five feet (of water) downtown,” Barnett said.

Nelson added there was a car near the downtown railroad trestle that was nearly completely covered.

Nelson went over the city’s cleanup plan, stating while the city is looking into receiving aid from the state, the city will begin cleanup immediately.

The Middlesboro Fire Department and the Middlesboro Street Department will be very involved with the cleanup.

“For example, we’re going to be going to Lincoln Park and using the Fire Department to spray off all the picnic tables, buildings, walking tracks and we’re going to be doing that to the Canal Walk as well,” Nelson said. “Everywhere we’ve got a park that had water on it…they’re going to come and spray that down.”

There will also be some heavy equipment in use.

“Kevin (Barnett) will be using the backhoe to get the biggest part of the mud removed,” Nelson said.

According to Barnett, cleanup will take some time.

“We’ve had several trees fall because the ground got so wet,” Barnett said. “We’ll be picking up trees and cleaning…for probably one or two weeks.”

Brock and Nelson both expressed appreciation to all the emergency personnel who responded to the event.

“They did a fantastic job supporting myself and the mayors, I just want to give a shout out to them,” Brock said.

No flood-related injuries were reported.