Launch Case Study: Frankfort and Franklin County, KY

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On December 10, 2012, on the anniversary of Frankfort, Kentucky’s December 1978 flood, local and federal agencies met to unveil the “Know Your Line: Be Flood Aware” High Water Mark initiative. The High Water Mark Initiative strives to draw attention to Frankfort and Franklin County, KY flood risks by displaying how high the water has reached in past floods and encouraging citizens to take steps to reduce their risks.

 Be Flood Aware;

Pilot Participants

  • Frankfort and Franklin County: Ray Kinney, Deron Rambo, Tom Russell (City of Frankfort Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security); Gary Muller (Frankfort Planning/CRS Coordinator); Robert Hewitt (Franklin County Planning Director)
  • State: Carey Johnson (Kentucky Division of Water); Leslie Mahoney Kennedy (State Hazard Mitigation Officer)
  • Federal: Vincent Brown (FEMA HQ) Kristen Martinenza, Mark Vieira and Gene Longenecker (FEMA Region IV), Mike Griffin (USGS); Mike Callahan (NOAA)


The Flood of December 1978A black and white image of flood waters in Frankfort County, KY

The flood of December 1978 was the worst recorded flood in Frankfort’s history.

The Kentucky River  crested at a record 48.47 ft., as more than half of downtown Frankfort was flooded, forcing approximately 1,000 people to evacuate their homes.


Frankfort Launch Event Activities

On the 34th anniversary of the worst flood in Frankfort’s history, local and federal officials reminded the public of their local flood risks at the Paul Sawyier Public Library. Launch event activities included:

  • Presentation on High Water Mark for Frankfort/ Franklin Counties Welcome remarks by the Mayor of Frankfort, H. “Gippy” Graham and Franklin County Judge Executive, Ted Collins
  • A history of Frankfort’s/ Franklin County’s flooding by a local historian
  • Overview of the High Water Mark Initiative and the Frankfort/ Franklin County Pilot effort
  • Review of the sign locations and how citizens can protect themselves from flooding by Frankfort Emergency Management Agency
  • Overview of flood inundation by USGS

Frankfort and Franklin County High Water Mark Sign Locations

Fourteen High Water Mark signs were strategically positioned throughout Frankfort and Franklin County to show how high the Kentucky River reached in certain spots during the December 1978 flood, such as the Paul Sawyier Public Library, Buffalo Trace Distillery and Dolly Graham Park. The USGS helped select sign locations, provided documentation to support accurate sign positioning and provided measurements and surveying for sign installation.

Resulting Media Coverage

The High Water Mark launch event drew media coverage by local news channels and newspapers. For clips from the event, please visit: Be Flood Aware;

Last Updated: 
04/28/2015 - 09:49
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