Flood waters on the Green River are finally receding this week after heavy rains left much of the county submerged at the start of the new year.
Several bands of heavy rain in late December added to an already wet start to the winter season, filling ditches and fields in the county and leading to spotty flash flooding in western parts of the county from agriculture runoff. According to meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Paducah, water levels on the Rough, Pond and Green Rivers in McLean County began steadily rising as storms continued moving eastward, before stabilizing over the weekend.
The Green River crested at almost 29 feet Friday evening, making it a moderate flooding event and setting off multiple warnings in communities along the river, including Livermore, Calhoun and Beech Grove. Meteorologists said officials began taking notice of rising waters on the river at an 18-foot actionable stage, when water begins running over the high pool banks. By 23 feet in Calhoun — one of the deepest portions of the river in McLean County — meteorologists alert river traffic and officials of a minor flooding event. Once the river reaches a 26-foot depth or higher, flood alerts are issued and water begins closing streets and highways in the county.
River water and agriculture runoff was enough to close 12 county roads. McLean County Emergency Management Director David Sunn said waters began receding earlier this week, but routes that followed the Green River such as Richland Road between Livermore and Calhoun could remain closed in portions until next week.
Richland Road was closed between Hainer Creek near Kentucky 1046 and Hicks Road as late as Tuesday. Hicks Road near Livermore and South Canal Street in Rumsey were the only two county routes closed in areas that affected nearby homeowners, but no major property damage was reported.
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesperson Keith Todd said no state highways in the county were closed due to flood waters.
This isn’t the highest the river rose in 2015. Heavy rain mixed with a significant snow melt in mid-March raised the Green almost a foot higher. Otherwise, water levels haven’t broken the 25-foot mark since 2011, when a major flood crept as far as Kentucky 81 in downtown Calhoun.
Flood waters haven’t been enough to halt barge traffic between Muhlenberg and McLean counties this week, although routes were modified slightly in Calhoun. By early last week, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff at Calhoun Lock and Dam No. 2 pinned back the lock gates and temporarily halted operations there while the lock and dam were drowned by flood waters. By the turn of the new year, little more than light poles and the top of a lock tower were visible.
Lock Master Sherry Alderson said the dam at Calhoun is actually a weir, which is designed to reduce the flow of water, and should not be confused with a storage dam that’s meant to hold back flood waters.
“When the water gets this high, we have to sit back and let Mother Nature do her thing,” Alderson said.
Boat traffic has been steered over the dam itself until the water recedes beneath it.