State of emergency declared at Louellen Lake

Published 3:43 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

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A leak at Luellen Lake – a private lake located near Evarts – was responsible for a state of emergency being declared on Wednesday, Feb. 14.

Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley provided an update on the situation.

“Initially, it was thought that a water line had burst in the vicinity due to the close proximity of the line to where the water was bubbling out of the ground,” Mosely said. “The City of Evarts water distribution crew investigated and quickly determined that it was not a water line issue.”

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According to Mosley, at approximately 4 p.m. on Feb. 15, reports came in of a whirlpool occurring in Louellen Lake with the water surfacing just above KY 38. He issued a state of emergency at 5 p.m. and residents were encouraged to evacuate in case the levee breached. A temporary shelter was set up at the Louellen Pentecostal Church.

Personnel from the city of Evarts responded, diverting water going into the lake using a backhoe. The Harlan County Road Department responded to the scene and worked to divert water going into the lake from the opposite side. The possibility of ground water going into the lake is an ongoing concern, Mosley said.

“By 8:00 p.m. a pump that the fiscal court had acquired recently to assist Evarts with water issues was mobilized to begin pumping water from the lake into the nearby tributary that runs into the Cloverfork river,” Mosley reported. “Nearly 1,000 gallons a minute has been and continues to be pumped to get the water level low enough that it quits escaping through the sinkhole that has formed in the lake.”

Mosley stated water was still being pumped as of Thursday at noon. The Division of Water and the Environmental Response Team have both been consulted concerning the situation, and both agencies were at the site on both Feb. 14 and 15. The Emergency Response Team has provided two additional pumps which are expected to be in operation on short order. The pumps will be used in an attempt to lower the lake level to eliminate threats to public safety and nearby property.

“Long-term solutions are being discussed with state agencies,” Mosley said. “Due to this being private property, local government can only mitigate the threat to public safety, and we will do that.”

Mosley mentioned Harlan County Emergency Management, the Harlan County Sheriff’s Office, the Harlan County Road Department, Harlan County Magistrate Bill Moore, District 2 Constable Scotty Moore, personnel from the city of Evarts and members of the Cloverfork Volunteer Fire Department assisted.