City and county officials met Wednesday at the McCracken County Emergency Management Complex to discuss several aspects of the impact of the recent flood, including damage assessment and the potential to receive state and federal aid.
The meeting, conducted by McCracken County Emergency Management Director Jerome Mansfield, included McCracken Judge-Executive Craig Clymer, Paducah Mayor Brandi Harless, City Manager Jim Arndt, City Engineer and Public Works Director Rick Murphy, National Weather Service warning coordinator and meteorologist Rick Shanklin, and Jeremy Blansett, the Area 1 manager for Kentucky Emergency Management.
Mansfield reported that sandbag filling stopped last week and the American Red Cross shelter at Heartland Worship Center had closed on Tuesday.
Mansfield said his office and officials from the American Red Cross would begin damage assessment around the county as early as today, with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) arriving on or around March 25.
"The next step is for us to do local damage assessment in the next few days and turn that into Kentucky Emergency Management," he said. "They compile figures for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which would make a recommendation to the president.
"Our threshold for public damage - that's the public facilities in the city and county - is $247,835.70. We'll survey individual residences that have flood damage as well and attempt to see if we qualify for individual assistance."
Blansett said, as of Tuesday, the state surpassed its threshold of $6.5 million, saying the state was at $10.3 million in damage. He said, as of Wednesday morning, Ballard County reported $243,000 in damages, and the agency still has to hear reports from Carlisle, Fulton, Hickman, Livingston and Lyon counties.
"A majority of that ($10.3 million) came from eastern Kentucky," he said. "Talking with the recovery staff, they're looking at FEMA being down here approximately March 25 to do joint preliminary damage assessment. Hopefully, by then, we'll have a good idea about what's damaged and what we can look at."
Murphy said that he had heard from people living in flood-prone areas such as Lydon Road and Oaks Road (south of Interstate 24 near Husband Road) that if the city would open the gates at Bee Branch - which flows into a reservoir between the interstate and Lydon Road - the flooding would not be as extensive in that area.
"This is Island Creek, Clarks River and the Blizzard Pond drainage ditch," he said, pointing to a map. "When the river gauge reaches 49 feet, all of these waters join together as one. ... When we shut these gates, it prevents this mass of water from coming in and flooding the city.
"Once these rivers recede and get down around 49 feet, we'll open the gates to let the water come through, but if we open them now, we're doing nothing other than circulating the river. The river will come in and then we're paying to pump it out and also filling our reservoir, our storage area, inside. And, as we fill this inside, we're flooding the people inside."
Murphy added, when the river gauge reaches 35 feet, West Hovekamp Road, Husband Road and other streets in that area become inundated.
"(Lydon Road-area residents) are irritated. I get it, I understand," he said, "but there's nothing we can do as long as the river stays at 53 feet. We're not supposed to open the gate until (the level reaches) 45.5, but I'm opening it as soon as I can - as soon as the river stops flowing in this way, we'll open the gate."
Shanklin said he did not think the predicted rain through this weekend would affect the level of the Ohio River at Paducah, predicted to gradually lower, on average, a foot per day from today through March 16. He added the amount of water going through Kentucky and Barkley dams would help to regulate the river's depth.
Murphy said the gauge used to measure current and predicted river levels in Paducah on the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service website has been "erratic" and that the city and county would be using his measurements regarding flood actions going forward. He said that the measurements on the website are at least 0.4 to 0.5 feet (5 to 6 inches) lower than the actual level and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is aware of the problem and is working to correct it.
"We were actually taking (flood)gates out based on the gauge. We took a gate out that we didn't need to be taking out," he said.