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HWM Pilot Summary: Frankfort and Franklin County, KY

This case study highlights the Frankfort and Franklin County, Kentucky High Water Mark (HWM) Pilot Project, which took place on December 10, 2012. See more High Water Mark case studies.

The flood of December 1978 was the worst recorded flood in Frankfort, KY’s history. The Kentucky River crested at a record 48.47 feet, resulting in more than half of downtown Frankfort flooding. This forced approximately 1,000 people to evacuate their homes.

On December 10, 2012, on the anniversary of Frankfort, KY’s December 1978 flood, Frankfort and Franklin County, KY local officials and Federal agencies met to unveil the HWM Initiative in the community to help raise awareness about the flooding capacity of the Kentucky River.

Launch Event Activities

Local and Federal officials reminded the public of their local flood risks at the Paul Sawyier Public Library. HWM launch event activities included:

  • Welcome remarks by the Mayor of Frankfort, H. “Gippy” Graham, and Franklin County Judge Executive, Ted Collins;
  • A history of Frankfort and Franklin County’s flooding by a local historian;
  • An overview of the HWM Initiative and the Frankfort and Franklin County’s pilot effort;
  • Review of the sign locations and how citizens can protect themselves from flooding by Frankfort Emergency Management Agency; and
  • Overview of flood inundation by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Fourteen HWM 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.

Pilot Participants 

  •  Frankfort and Franklin Counties:  Ray Kinney, Deron Rambo, Tom Russell (City of Frankfort Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security); Gary Muller (Frankfort Planning/ Community Rating System [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 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA])

Resulting Media Coverage

The HWM Launch Event drew media coverage by local news channels and newspapers. For clips from the event visit:

Last updated February 16, 2021