The news from the eastern KY floods just keeps getting worse. My heart goes out to them.
I grew up with floods. Born in a town surrounded by floodwalls (Catlettsburg), I saw my grandparents’ home just down the river in Ashland flooded several times when I was very young, under the age of ten. Floodwater leaves a dark, mucky, stinky mud several inches thick once it recedes. Even if your structure survives, you’ve got to remove all that smelly muck. And these days it’s also likely poisonous, with god-knows-what chemicals in it, courtesy of the petrochemical factories upriver in West Virginia. And garbage – floods grab all the garbage in their path and leave it for the unfortunate flood victims to clean up. The floodwater and mud in southeastern KY won’t be as polluted as that of the Ohio River, but it’ll still be a mess.
Most of the towns in Appalachia are built in river and creek valleys, a bad practice in retrospect. Compare that with all the Italian towns on hilltops. Those towns were built on hilltops as defense measures against raiders, not floods, but the defense works for both threats. Kentucky’s settlers would have been wiser to model their towns after the Italians. Residents of places like Garrett and Dwarf, KY may get their chance – much of those little towns will have to be rebuilt, and they should strongly consider rebuilding on the hilltops.
Another irony of floods like the one in eastern KY is that they pollute and ruin water systems. After all that rain, there’s no fresh potable water in places like Garrett. It may takes weeks to restore fresh water services.
A final irony in all this flood news is that here in Fallbrook, it hasn’t rained since February, and it didn’t rain much then. It’s dry, dry, dry. And it’s not likely to rain until November.