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Harlan County officials say ground softening caused lake leak near Evarts, state of emergency

Dan Mosley
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Emergency crews discovered a whirlpool at Louellen Lake in Harlan County, causing a leak along Kentucky Route 38.

Harlan County officials say a leak at the privately-owned Louellen Lake near Evarts was responsible for a small evacuation and county state of emergency earlier this month.

Emergency crews discovered a whirlpool at the lake, indicating the ground around it was softening. Around seven families were evacuated and a temporary shelter was set up at the local Louellen Pentecostal Church.

The discovery was made after reports of water leaking out of the ground near Kentucky Route 38, eventually flooding the yards of residents.

Judge Executive Dan Mosley says multiple emergency teams helped pump the extra water out of the lake. That includes members of the state Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Water and Environmental Response Team.

“It was just a real, what I would call a collaborative event, where a lot of different agencies work together for a common goal to prioritize public safety,” Mosley said.

Local teams included Harlan County Emergency Management, the Harlan County Road Department and the Cloverfork Fire Department.

They were able to pump the extra water from the lake and into the nearby Cloverfork River.

“Once that was achieved, a new overflow was established at that level to ensure that the water doesn't rise above the hole that was causing the issues any longer,” Mosley said.

The leak has since been contained and evacuees were able to return home as of Feb. 15. Long-term solutions for public safety are being discussed.

Shepherd joined WEKU in June 2023 as a staff reporter. He most recently worked for West Virginia Public Broadcasting as General Assignment Reporter. In that role, he collected interviews and captured photos in the northern region of West Virginia. Shepherd holds a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Communication and a bachelor’s in music from West Virginia University.
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