Western Kentucky’s recovery efforts after historic rains challenged by renewed flood threat

Towns like Mayfield and Paducah in Kentucky will be on high alert Thursday as recovery efforts are underway following a day of life-threatening flooding. More heavy rain is in the forecast as saturated moisture levels and swollen creeks persist. Some areas could receive an additional to 2 inches of rain.

MAYFIELD, Ky. – There's no rest for the weary in western Kentucky on Thursday, cleaning up just one day after historic rains and widespread flooding slammed the region.

A Flood Watch remains in place for parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri through Thursday morning as more thunderstorms run through the waterlogged region. NOAA's Weather Prediction Center said there is a moderate risk for flash flooding in the Tennessee Valley area.

Here's a look at the current flash flood outlook.
(FOX Weather)


Towns like Mayfield and Paducah in Kentucky will be on high alert because there is so much moisture in the soil, and creeks are still swollen as more heavy rain looms in the forecast. Some areas could receive an additional 1-2 inches on top of the once life-threatening flooding.

The rain will only hamper the recovery efforts as the region tries to wring out from rainfall amounts never before observed in the state.

Kentucky's governor declared a state of emergency in response after 11.28 inches of rain fell in the past 24 hours near Mayfield in Graves County between 12 a.m. and 1 p.m. The National Weather Service said the preliminary rain report breaks the 1997 statewide record for total rainfall over 24 hours.

"Just like every challenge we face we'll get through this - we'll get through this together," Gov. Andy Beshear said. "We will be there; we will make sure we are providing resources and help our people make it through yet another challenge."

Drone footage over Mayfield during predawn hours Wednesday showed how neighborhoods were quickly inundated with water, overwhelming backyards and homes

The catastrophic flooding comes as Mayfield is still recovering 18 months after a deadly EF-4 tornado slammed the town. During that outbreak, more than 1,000 homes were lost and 80 people were killed

"This is a setback, of course," Mayor Kathy O'Nan told FOX Weather. "I think it's discouraging, probably for a lot of us, because we just don't need anything right now. We are moving forward, which is so wonderful, but as with everything, we will plow right through this, too."


Record rains prompt Flash Flood Emergency alerts

Drivers found themselves trapped as the floodwaters washed away roads and filled streets, and some people needed to be rescued from their homes. Luckily, no deaths have been reported.

A record 6.95 inches of rain fell in Paducah Wednesday, which was the second-highest daily rainfall on record. The all-time record is 7.49 inches set back in 1985 with the remnants of Hurricane Elena. 


Footage filmed by Jeff Kent showed floodwaters in the Oakdale neighborhood of Paducah on Wednesday morning as a Flash Flood Emergency was issued.

"Yesterday we saw back building, which is a process where thunderstorms roll through," FOX Weather meteorologist Britta Merwin said. "Because there's so much deep moisture in place, they continue to develop behind one another. And so you get this training effect where these thunderstorms are kind of on the train tracks, and they go right over the same spots."

Looking at 12-hour time lapse satellite imagery issued by the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere (CIRA) at Colorado State University shows the constant rain and storms over western Kentucky where the catastrophic and life-threatening flooding unfolded Wednesday.

On the heels of this activity, a third round of storms containing heavy rain will traverse the region on Friday. 

An additional 1 to 3 inches of rain will be possible leading to yet more chances for flooding, the FOX Forecast Center said.