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Mandatory evacuations underway in Breathitt County

Published: Mar. 2, 2021 at 5:03 PM EST
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JACKSON, Ky. (WKYT) - Experts who were on scene in Breathitt County this evening say the dam is secure at the erosion site.

Our Chad Hedrick has been there since this afternoon. While the erosion didn’t help keep the water out, it did not cause a rush of mass water to break through. Experts say a lot of water from Panbowl Lake had already been swelling out of its banks for days.

It was a race against the clock Tuesday as an assembly line in rushed to fill sandbags and pack them around a hole in the dam over Highway 15, with hopes of keeping more water from seeping through.

“That’s slowing the water down which keeps it from carrying more material out, you got water at a higher velocity, it’s going to take material with it,” said Corbett Caudill, the chief engineer for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 10.

That water is coming from the north fork of the Kentucky River and spilling into Panbowl Lake. It’s supposed to be the other way around on the other end of the lake.

“It’s just a matter of, there was nowhere for this water to go in the lake,” said Jackson Mayor Laura Thomas.

The rising water and concerns of a possible breach prompted a mandatory evacuation for surrounding neighborhoods where water was already getting too close for comfort.

Rhonda Bryant left her home in a hurry, after hearing a neighbor yelling for everyone to leave.

“She was trying to get everybody out safe and she was hollering, ‘get out, get out, get out, it’s coming it’s coming, the water,’” Bryant said.

Now, she doesn’t know what she’ll come back to, and is afraid she’s lost precious memories and keepsakes from her husband who recently passed.

“I lost my husband, I lost his stuff. Everything that I had. It’s bad,” Bryant said.

The experts who inspected the set up and the dam say this is not having any major impacts on Highway 15. Traffic is still running smoothly over the area, and they believe the worst of the situation is over. Now, we wait for the water to go down and clean up to begin.

As of Tuesday night, there were still experts at the site monitoring the erosion until further repairs can be made.

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