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Graves County groups assisting flood victims with cleanup, temporary housing

A stream in Graves County is filled with flood water on July 19. Mayfield, the county seat, saw over 11 inches of rain in a 24-hour span.
Hannah Saad
A stream in Graves County is filled with flood water on July 19. Mayfield, the county seat, saw over 11 inches of rain in a 24-hour span.

Volunteer-led groups across far western Kentucky are helping victims of last week’s flooding in the region.

The disaster – a result of intense overnight rainfall across the Commonwealth – damaged dozens of homes in the Purchase Area. Though no injuries or deaths have been connected with the floods, many Kentuckians living in areas hit by the December 2021 tornado outbreak were impacted.

A pair of groups formed in the aftermath of the tornado outbreak – the Mayfield-Graves County Long Term Recovery Group and Camp Graves – have activated to aid flood-impacted families.

The Long Term Recovery Group, also known as Recover Mayfield, has heard from nearly 100 families requesting aid since the disaster, according to executive director Ryan Drane. Recover Mayfield is helping people remove debris and recover personal effects, as well as supplying them with equipment to dry out their homes.

Of the victims Recover Mayfield has surveyed so far, as much as 90% didn’t have flood insurance at the time of the disaster. Drane said that factor, combined with the lack of a federal disaster declaration, will make recovery a more difficult road for the region.

“This has not been federally declared,” he said. “So all of the money needed to repair those homes, replace valuables, furniture, appliances, vehicles, it's going to have to be raised on the local and regional level.”

Micah Seavers leads Camp Graves, a group that formed to house and provide resources for survivors of the 2021 tornado outbreak. He, too, has found that a lack of flood insurance will be one of the biggest obstacles towards a speedy recovery in western Kentucky.

“The biggest thing is that there's just so much physical damage to their property as far as mess,” Seavers said. “But they don't know how much they're gonna have to claim, what they're gonna have to claim, how far they’ll have to get into it – and then there’s the money end of it. Most of their insurance doesn't cover things like that so people are really struggling with the monetary end of the whole ordeal.”

Thinking of the difference between this disaster and the aftermath of the tornado outbreak, Drane said the impact of the floods will appear understated until the damage surveys are complete.

“Floods are a very deceptive disaster. Unless it's a flash flood that's just wiped away residence, once the waters recede, it can be very difficult to tell just how damaged the home actually is,” he said. “Whereas with a tornado, it's a lot more visually apparent the destruction and the damage. But to that one person that's been impacted whether it be by a flood or by a tornado, no matter the cause, or the extent of the damage, their life has been changed. And us as neighbors should rally around them, no matter what the impact, to be able to support and help them in their recovery.”

Camp Graves has been housing tornado survivors since early 2022. Now, through a donation announced by Gov. Andy Beshear Thursday, the group will receive a dozen travel trailers to use as transitional housing for flood victims.

Seavers said the Graves County group has been contacted by multiple families impacted by the 2021 disaster who were hit again by the floodwaters last week.

“I've got a couple of families that just got their houses finished and back into them, comfortable, and now the houses are damaged again,” Seavers said. “The main floodwaters went right through the tornado impacted area.”

Camp Graves will use the travel trailers in disaster preparedness efforts across western Kentucky.

The Mayfield-Graves County Long Term Recovery Group and Camp Graves are each accepting donations to aid flood survivors on their respective websites.

“This response and recovery could look completely different than the tornado. In the tornado, we had groups showing up from all over the United States, and money that came in from all over the world to assist,” Drane said. “With this, we're going to rely a lot on our friends and relatives and brothers and sisters throughout the region and the state of Kentucky to help our survivors because that funding, that volunteer support, will probably not be here.”

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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