Coast Guard: Historic flooding expected in Ky.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard warned Thursday that
parts of rural western Kentucky will see their worst flooding in
200 years while rescuers continued to search swift-moving,
debris-laden rivers for two missing kayakers.
The manmade Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River in the Land
Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is expected to crest at
its highest level ever recorded, said Coast Guard Lt. Jennifer
Jessee, chief of waterways management with the marine safety unit
in Paducah.
"Over the past 12 years, the highest Kentucky Lake saw was
367.5 (feet) and we're going to be cresting in the 370s. This is a
200-year flood," Jessee said. "It's very important that people
realize this."
Jessee said people who had seen television images of the
flooding in and around Nashville, Tenn., needed to be reminded that
much of that water was slowing making its way to western Kentucky.
Earlier this week, the Coast Guard closed Kentucky Lake and its
companion lake along the Cumberland River, Lake Barkley, to
recreational boating. Parts of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers
were also closed to recreational boating.
Jessee said so far there had been no reports of injuries or
mishaps and that during a flyover of the region Thursday, the
marinas appeared empty. Since most of the area is rural farmland,
she said few residents had been affected.
"I'm very happy that people are staying off the water," she
said.
Across the state, 73 counties have declared states of emergency
due to the flooding, which resulted from fierce storms last
weekend. Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency arrived
Thursday to begin the task of assessing the damage.
Four people were killed after the weekend's storms washed out
roads and bridges across southern and central parts of the state. A
Radcliff man who had been kayaking Monday on the Green River
remained missing Thursday, officials said, as did an 18-year-old
Somerset high school student who went kayaking Wednesday on Lake
Cumberland.
State agriculture officials say Kentucky's farms have endured
huge losses, and officials have asked the federal government for
relief.
Richie Farmer, state agriculture commissioner, on Thursday asked
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for an agriculture emergency
declaration that would help speed up the process of obtaining
federal funds.
Farmer said in a news release that a "significant percentage"
of the western Kentucky corn crop may have been destroyed. Wheat
and soybeans also may have taken a hit.
In northeast Kentucky, most state highways were reopened by
Thursday, according to Allen Blair of the state Transportation
Cabinet. Crews were still working on some roads blocked by mud and
debris, as well as damaged bridges, the release said.
The 160,300-acre Kentucky Lake is the largest manmade lake in
the eastern United States, according to a website about the Land
Between the Lakes. It stretches south across the western tip of
Kentucky and nearly the entire width of Tennessee.
It was created by the Kentucky Dam, built in the 1930s and 1940s
by the Tennessee Valley Authority to help control floods on the
lower Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
About 17 million visitors travel to Kentucky Lake each year. The
lake is surrounded by four state parks and various smaller parks,
two wildlife refuges, and dozens of commercial recreation areas.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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