Unsinkable: Stories from the Eastern Kentucky flood relief efforts

rock with blue paint shaped like Kentucky with the word Unsinkable

Catastrophic flooding struck Eastern Kentucky on July 28. The stories of survival, loss, and now recovery are both harrowing and inspiring. We are sharing stories from the counties, some of the most rural in the United States. 

Follow this page for more dispatches from counties in Eastern Kentucky as the flood recovery continues.

Letcher County, Kentucky

Knott County, Kentucky

The Tuesday before the flood came, I stood on the porch of the Hindman Settlement School stringing beans.

When I first walked onto the porch, Rachel was already at it. She and I were among the writers there for Hindman’s flagship literary program, The Appalachian Writers’ Workshop. 

“Can I help?” I asked, and she welcomed me. 

She handed me a mess of beans and a bowl to discard their strings. I matched her rhythm, sliding the strings from each side and snapping the pod into threes, dropping them into the tall cooker between us. 

Another writer, Meredith, walked up. She and I were supposed to meet to talk about my writing, but she too couldn’t resist breaking beans for a spell.

She started to help. Continue reading 

Breathitt County, Kentucky

The day before President Joe Biden was expected to visit her native Breathitt County, Amanda Turner considered what she would want him to know about the situation facing families like hers.

“I hope the one thing he takes away from this is that even though we are poor, we are strong,” said Turner, who waded into waist-deep waters with her husband to wake her nearby relatives so they could escape. 

Two of the family’s three homes were destroyed; some of Turner’s relatives are now sleeping in tents on their property, protecting what’s left. She hoped Biden and other officials would have an opportunity to see those living conditions firsthand. Continue reading … 

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