Clay Nickels and his wife, McKenzie, were woken up at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning to what they thought was someone banging at their door.
When they went to check, it turned out to be rocks from a mudslide hitting the side of their house, Clay told CNN.
Immediately the couple began packing up their important documents and valuables and evacuated to McKenzie’s mother’s house nearby. Clay said McKenzie had a plan in place and packed everything up within five minutes.
The Nickels live in Neon, Kentucky, in Letcher County, a part of the state that was heavily affected by the floods.
After things were under control, Clay says he and his wife went to check on family.
“At one point we looked down the hill and you could see a football field completely underwater,” Clay said, “The bleachers were our guide of telling if the water was receding or not.”
They then went to check on Clay’s grandfather who lives nearby. The couple took life jackets with them, not knowing how deep the water would get.
After wading in chest-deep water, the two arrived at Clay’s grandfather’s home.
“He was fine, but his house was not, nobody’s was.” Clay said.
He attempted to drive to his father and his other set of grandparents who live in Kite, Kentucky, about 16 miles away. But in order to reach them he spent hours using a chainsaw to cut down trees that were blocking roadways.
“The scariest part was hearing about the multiple fatalities,” Clay said. “People were saying that there were deaths in my father and grandparents’ part of town and I had no way of knowing if it was them.”
Everyone in Clay’s family is okay, but their houses are destroyed.
“My grandparents have 8-10 foot ceilings on their first floor and it was completely full of water,” He said, “Furniture is displaced and destroyed.” Clay and McKenzie’s home only suffered from some a small amount of water leaking inside.
His great-grandfather, who is 93, was able to evacuate his home before the flooding got worse. Clay says he stayed in his car up the hill by himself for some time, waiting for another family member to get him.
“It looks like a war zone here,” he said, “This affected everybody. There’s very few people I know whose house, vehicle or lives have not been altered by this,”
Clay said they’ve been told it’ll take at least a week before power and water is restored, but he believes it will be longer.