'The Nature of Weather' - Paducah hit with flash floods, storm spares outliers

Rainwater recedes from Clay Street, off Joe Clifton Drive, Wednesday afternoon, as Paducah workers monitor the road conditions to determine when reopening the road is safe. Water remained knee deep on parts of the road through late afternoon, after a heavy rainfall that began around 1:30 p.m.

In the record books, July 29 will go down as nothing special for Paducah area weather. The official gauge at the National Weather Service recorded six one-hundredths of an inch of rain.

But city residents from Noble Park to downtown would tell a different story.

That story includes multiple inches of rain over less than an hour that flooded multiple areas of town and left some streets knee-deep in water hours after the last drops had fallen.

City Engineer Rick Murphy said one of the city’s rain gauges showed more than 4 inches dumped on the city Wednesday afternoon.

One meteorologist at the National Weather Service said a gauge near Noble Park showed about 3 inches fell.

“That’s the nature of weather,” said NWS meteorologist Rachel Trevino of the disparity between the official measurement and the real storm.

“It dumps wherever it wants to.”

Trevino said meteorologists call storms like Wednesday’s “efficient rain producers,” which hit especially hard when there’s a lot of moisture in the atmosphere as there has been lately.

“It’s hot, humid. Stuff pops up,” Trevino said.

She added that such storms tend to cause more problems in cities than in surrounding areas, because cities have more pavement to flood and less open ground to soak up the rainfall quickly.

“If it had happened between here and Kevil, we wouldn’t be thinking a thing of it,” she said.

More rain is forecast for today.

Murphy said in recent years he’s observed a shift toward events like Wednesday’s happening with more frequency.

“I’ve lived here all my life, and it just seems like for the past several years, we just seem to have severe rainfall events,” he said, calling the storms “the new norm.”

He advised city residents, especially those that live near creeks and rivers, to “be respectful” of the chance of flash flooding with heavy storms.

“It will come out of its banks at times during flash floods, and you need to be prepared for that,” he said.

Murphy said basic safety precautions and attentiveness can mitigate some of the danger for people who get caught suddenly in a cloudburst.

Primarily, he emphasized that people should avoid driving when there’s water covering a roadway.

“Don’t drown. Turn around.”

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