Much like water, life ebbs and flows. It can change quickly. In late July 2022, heavy rains hammered parts of eastern Kentucky, building up to deadly and catastrophic flooding on July 27-28.
The floodwaters swept away dozens of people, washed away homes, destroyed roads, and knocked out power and water service.
Louisville Water was among the agencies that trekked to Hazard in Perry County, Kentucky to help restore water infrastructure to communities that desperately needed clean water.
“During the initial phases, they anticipated being out of water for nine to 12 months. With our help and from other utilities, they had restored water service to most of the customers in four weeks from the flood event,” said Pat Howard, Louisville Water Manager of Engineering Main Replacement & Rehabilitation.
Howard and Director of Distribution Operations Joe Schmitt were part of the initial Louisville Water team that answered the call for help. They helped assess the damage, map out the logistics to fix it, and make necessary repairs.
Earlier this month, Howard and Schmitt travelled back to Hazard to meet with city leaders and see how life has changed in one year.
“We witnessed an immense amount of progress. Major work has been completed in regards to bridge reconstruction and debris cleanup. Most areas we visited have very few indications that the flood ever happened; very impressive considering the amount of destruction just one year ago,” Schmitt shared.
Visiting eastern Kentucky on the heels of the flooding and again one year later are experiences that Schmitt and Howard will keep with them.
“Outside of my family, there’s not much more that I’m more proud to have been a part of. When we first arrived on August 3, 2022, you could see the look of despair in their (residents’) eyes. Near the end of the three weeks we were there, you could sense a difference,” Howard said. “I am extremely proud of Louisville Water for responding to the call and providing unwavering support of us to help. Prior to the flood, it would be hard to imagine Louisville Water having an impact in eastern Kentucky because it’s hard to imagine something like that to occur in the first place.”
Schmitt echoed those sentiments. “Impacts from storms and natural disasters often do not have a huge impact on buried infrastructure. The damage from the eastern Kentucky floods was unprecedented. Pat and I are extremely grateful that Louisville Water gave us an opportunity to represent our company and support those that were in dire need of help. This was an opportunity to provide assistance that we will never forget.”
During their return trip, the men met with Hazard Mayor ‘Happy’ Mobelini and city leaders to discuss the challenges they overcame in order to help the community recover and rebuild, and to recognize the progress they’ve made.
One major accomplishment is at the Hazard Water Department.
Schmitt said, “They made significant improvements and upgrades to the treatment plant, so they are in a better position now than before the flood event.”
Earlier this year, Mayor Mobelini sent Howard a picture of a sign that proudly displays the city’s gratitude for the help Louisville Water provided along with other water companies.
Howard and Schmitt will share their experiences at the 2023 Kentucky-Tennessee Water Professionals Conference.
In addition to sending crews to help repair infrastructure and restore water service, Louisville Water set aside $25,000 last year to benefit flood relief efforts in eastern Kentucky.