After Deluge, Kentucky Dries Out

The surge of Mississippi River water continues to move down toward the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana and Mississippi are preparing for the flood. In western Kentucky, officials and residents are taking stock now that the waters have receded. Many are facing tough decisions.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

A massive surge of floodwater is slowly making its way down the Mississippi River toward the Gulf of Mexico. Record crests are expected over the next two weeks in Mississippi and Louisiana. The historic flooding first hit parts of Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri, after almost two feet of rain. Now, the waters are receding in this vastly rural landscape.

Chad Lampe, from member station WKMS in Murray, Kentucky, reports that locals are surveying the damage and making tough decisions.

CHAD LAMPE: Lisa McManus and her family lived in their Reidland, Kentucky home for 20 years, until now.

Ms. LISA MCMANUS: It just makes my heart break.

LAMPE: The single-story home, ringed by trees and bushes, took on several feet of water. After evacuating more than a week ago, she finally got the okay from the National Guard that she could return. She was overwhelmed, her belongings were scattered everywhere and the home smelled rancid.

Ms. MCMANUS: Knowing that we're not going to ever get to come back here and live, the 20 years that we've lived here - John and I have been married almost 19 years. And he said that, with tears in his eyes, he has said I can't do it again, honey.

LAMPE: This is the first time the McManus family has seen the water this high and they don't want to be here if it happens again.

Ms. MCMANUS: We had to look yesterday for houses and we just happened to find the one that suited all of us and it's - there is no water around it anywhere. We're hoping that we can rebuild there and start our little life over again.

(Soundbite of a closing door)

LAMPE: In nearby Ledbetter, Kentucky, close to the Tennessee River, Jennifer McCann returns home for the first time in a week. Floodwaters have covered every road she could use to come back. She says it was like having her own private island.

Ms. JENNIFER MCCANN: My husband has always wanted to be able to fish off his front porch, and he got real close to it. But every way in was blocked. So it was a choice of stay and ride it out - and I didn't know how high it was going to go - or leave, take the cats. And fortunately we had someplace to go.

LAMPE: The McCanns were lucky. Water never made it into their home. Jennifer's husband, Mike, credits the blasting of the Birds Point Levee in Missouri.

Mr. MIKE MCCANN: If the levees had not been blown, there would have been about three foot of water standing inside this house right now, which would have been a major total loss. So it was a good thing. I know a lot of farmers were in disagreement with it and probably a lot of land was lost. But it is easier to rebuild the croplands than is to rebuild half a community.

(Soundbite of a vehicle)

Mr. PHILIP BEAM (Farmer): Yeah, I've never seen it the size it is right now.

LAMPE: That's Philip Beam, a third-generation Kentucky farmer. The levee breach helped his farm but a thousand acres of his 2,600-acre Carlisle County farm are underwater. He drives his truck as it slips and slides along the muddy ground. Still, he expects to turn a profit.

Mr. BEAM: Most of this low-lying ground is highly productive. Yes, it's got some cons that go with it. But as a whole, given the proper set of circumstances, in a year this land will yield off quite well.

LAMPE: Beam has crop insurance, but says the corn market is high enough this year he won't need it.

As the floodwaters continue to recede in Illinois and Kentucky, thousands of families are now returning to piece back their homes and figure out what to do next.

For NPR News, I'm Chad Lampe in Murray, Kentucky.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.