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'I never thought it would happen here'; Residents recount the moment water rose in eastern Kentucky

Lesia Watkins has lived in Jackson, Ky. for 52 years, she says she never imagined flood waters could get this high.

WHITESBURG, Ky. — Deadly floods ripped through several counties in eastern Kentucky last week, killing 37 people, after days of heavy rainfall washed out the mountainous region.

Lesia Watkins has lived in Jackson, Ky. for 52 years, she says she never imagined flood waters could get this high.

"We could see there were people that were stranded in their homes," Watkins said. “You don't know how much you appreciate family and friends. When I see my daddy’s white truck, you know, he was coming to check on us."

Just over 60 miles away from Jackson lies Whitesburg, where Lee Adams and her family have lived for decades.

“This home has been in our family for over 40 years," she said. "My grandparents lived here, my mother and daddy lived here."

That same home, now stripped to the baseboards. 

Adams says she came to the house just hours after the flooding started, working to help rescue her brother Chad.

“By the time I went back across the bridge, the water was over my headlights," she said. "And then I was stuck on that side of the bridge."

Credit: Ian Hardwitt/WHAS11

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She says once they were able to get her brother out of the house and back to safety, they switched gears and began helping their neighbors.

“[Chad] started helping save people," Adams said. "He’s knocking on doors. And he's 6’5 and he was in water up to his chest."

Adams' cousin Chris Caudill lives just down the road from her, his home, was also destroyed in the catastrophic flood.

“It all happened within like a 45 minute period," Caudill said. "It went from being just in the yard to up in the house around the house about five feet it got about four feet in the house. We lost everything." 

Caudill has helped other communities across the country with disaster relief. Communities struck by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, but never thought he would be on the other side.

“You know, I never thought it would happen here," he said.

Caudill says eastern Kentucky is going to need help not just for the next couple of weeks, but years, something Governor Andy Beshear has committed to doing.

“I know that the good Lord above was with us for sure," Adams told WHAS11, adding it is a blessing her and her family is still alive.

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