National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Devastating floods occurred across southeastern Kentucky, southwestern West Virginia, western Virginia, and northeastern Tennessee in late January and early February of 1957. In eastern Kentucky, the headwaters of the Big Sandy, Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers were especially hard hit. In fact, the 1957 flood remains the flood of record at several points on the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy, the North, Middle and South Forks of the Kentucky River, and on the upper reaches of the Cumberland River.

Impacts from the floods were major. Water rises occurred so fast that many residents had to evacuate without their belongings. Communications were disrupted and food shortages developed as the result of damage to stores. Water supplies were contaminated in some locations and there was no gas for cooking. Reports indicated that 30 state and federal highways were blocked by flood waters or mudslides and most secondary roads were impassable due to the heavy rains. In Kentucky alone nine people died from the flooding and the Red Cross reported that 597 homes were destroyed with over 10,000 structures sustaining some type of damage.


The North Fork of the Kentucky River sweeps through Hazard in one of the worst floods in eastern Kentucky's history.  (AP Wirephoto)
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