© 2012 Josh Birnbaum



Olive Hill, Ky.
A River Ran Through It

In Olive Hill, Kentucky, at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in a state known for its lush grass and spring-fed lakes, water is death. The woes of the town have gone largely unnoticed by the national media. But for a century now, it has flooded about a dozen times, wreaking havoc and destruction on families and businesses that make up the community of 2,000.

In 2010, during a three-month stretch, two storm systems pelted Nashville and Cincinnati with more than five inches of water in a matter of hours. Olive Hill was caught in the middle. The deluge engulfed the town twice, in May and July, whooshing along Railroad Street, inside Jim Short’s hardware store, up Tom T. Hall Boulevard, obliterating Jeannie’s Flowers, and down Scott Street, pummeling Tyler’s Pizza. In the first flood, the water ravaged the businesses. In the second flood, the rushing currents took a life.

 
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