Clay Nickels and his wife, McKenzie, were woken at 5am Thursday morning by what they thought was someone knocking on their door.
When they went to check, it turned out to be rocks from a landslide hitting the side of their house, Clay told CNN.
Immediately, the couple began packing their important documents and valuables and evacuated to McKenzie’s mother’s house nearby. Clay said McKenzie had a plan in place and packed it all up in five minutes.
The Nickels live in Neon, Ky., in Letcher County, a part of the state that has been hit hard by flooding.
After things were under control, Clay says he and his wife went to see the family.
“At one point we looked down the hill and you could see a football pitch completely underwater,” Clay said. “The bleachers were our guide to whether the water was receding or not.”
They then went to see Clay’s grandfather who lives nearby. The couple took life jackets with them, unsure how deep the water would go.
After wading through chest deep water, the two arrived at Clay’s grandfather.
“He was fine, but his house was not, no one was.” said Clay.
He attempted to drive to his father and his other group of grandparents who live in Kite, Ky., about 16 miles away. But to reach them, he spent hours using a chainsaw to cut down the trees that blocked the roads.
“The scariest part was hearing about the multiple deaths,” Clay said. “People were saying there were deaths in my dad’s and grandparents’ neighborhood and I had no way of knowing if it was them.”
Everyone in Clay’s family is fine, but their homes are destroyed.
“My grandparents have 8-10 foot ceilings on the first floor and it was completely filled with water,” he said. “Furniture is moved and destroyed.” Clay and McKenzie’s house only suffered from a small amount of water that seeped inside.
His 93-year-old great-grandfather was able to evacuate his home before the floods got worse. Clay says he was alone in his car up the hill for a while, waiting for another family member to pick him up.
“It feels like a war zone here,” he said, “It’s affected everyone. There are very few people I know whose homes, vehicles, or lives haven’t been changed by it.”
Clay said they were told it would take at least a week before power and water were restored, but he thinks it will be longer.