The Flood of 1939

Spread the love

On July 5th, 1939, heavy rains in Eastern Kentucky led to massive flooding, affecting 21 counties with the worst of the floods happening in Rowan and Breathitt counties.

The rains began about midnight on July 5th and continued that night and into the next day. Between 2 and a half and 9 inches of rain fell in the area that night, depending on where you were. Before dawn the rain caused creeks and rivers in the Licking and Kentucky River valleys to overflow their banks.

The sheriff of Breathitt County reported that several persons were missing at Keck with the estimated property loss in the county at around a million dollars.

The postmaster at Morehead, in Rowan County, W. E. Crutcher, told reporters that there were 38 reported victims in the county. 25 bodies had been recovered by July 6th.

Morehead was hit hard, with reports that, from the air, the town looked like “a village of tiny houses that had been lifted high into the air and smashed to the ground…” Dead livestock could be seen among the houses below. Railroad tracks had also been lifted from the ground and moved 10 to 15 feet.

Six people were drowned at West Moreland when the car in which they were traveling was unable to outrun the wall of water headed down the valley. The vehicle was swept away by the floodwaters. A dormitory of the Mountain Bible Institute housing 25 boys and girls was also washed away by the flood, with nine students lost.

The final death toll was 52 in Breathitt County, 25 in Rowan County and 2 in Lewis County.

2 thoughts on “The Flood of 1939”

  1. Steve Gilly,
    I subscribed to your site and as soon as I did I stopped getting your posts. I especially enjoy your video posts. Just yesterday, July 5, you reappeared.
    I am an Appalachian writer who finds your articles fascinating. My mother was raised in Big Stone Gap and I spent all my summers there. I’ve heard the Gilly name all my life. In fact, my cousin married a Gilly. Beautiful memories.
    I am delighted that you are back with me!

    1. Well, if your cousin married a Gilly from Big Stone Gap, then we are probably kin of a sort, since I grew up in Big Stone (except for the times my dad was stationed in other parts of the country when he was in the army).

      Thanks for subscribing and for listening to our little podcast.

Comments are closed.

Related Post