USA – State of Emergency After Record Rain Triggers Severe Floods in Western Kentucky

The Governor of Kentucky declared a state of emergency after record heavy rainfall caused severe flooding in western areas of the state on 19 July 2023.

The torrential rain raised fears of a repeat of the catastrophic flooding seen in Kentucky in late July 2022. At the time the governor described the disaster as one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history.

Several roads in Western Kentucky were damaged or washed out after record rainfall on 19 July 2023. Photo: Graves County Sheriffs Office

Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency on 20 July 2023 following heavy rainfall that caused flooding in Carlisle, Graves, Hickman and McCracken counties.

Among the worst affected areas was the city of Mayfield in Graves County, which is still recovering from the devastating tornadoes of 2021. Graves County Sheriffs Office reported dozens of roads in the area were closed due to flooding or damage. Emergency responders carried out numerous evacuations and local officials said many residents self-evacuated. Full damage assessments were still to be completed as of 12 July 2023 but it is likely multiple homes and buildings have suffered damage. However, no injuries, missing persons or fatalities have been reported, as of early 20 July.

“Please pray for Mayfield and areas of Western Kentucky impacted by significant flooding from last night’s storms,” Gov. Beshear said. “We’re working to assess the damage and respond. Just like every challenge we’ve faced, we will be there for all those affected. We will get through this together.”

Power outages affected thousands of homes. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reported roads closed or blocked in 35 locations across Western Kentucky.

Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray signed an official order to temporarily suspend certain regulatory restrictions on commercial motor vehicles involved in restoring power and clearing debris in Western Kentucky.

“This order is to help avoid any delay for utility crews and other responders coming to the aid of storm
victims in a wide swath of Western Kentucky and some other areas,” Secretary Gray said.

Record Rainfall

The National Weather Service (NWS) at Paducah reported a preliminary 24-hour rainfall record for the state of Kentucky. The current 24-hour rainfall record stands at 10.48″ (266.19 mm), measured in Louisville, Kentucky, on 01 March, 1997. An unconfirmed total of 11.28″ (286.51 mm) of rain falling was recorded at a weather station near Mayfield in Graves County on 19 July 2023..

“An incredible amount of water in a very short duration unfortunately,” the Service said.

NWS Paducah also reported 6.90″ of rain in Paducah, which is the second highest daily rainfall on record for the city. The all-time record is 7.49″ set on 05 September, 1985, brought by the remnants of Hurricane Elena.

Record Rain western Kentucky July 2023. Image: NWS Paducah Kentucky

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