Harlan County remains under a state of emergency Monday evening after weekend flooding forced many families from their homes.
Damage reports are rolling ino the county as residents are able to see how much harm was done by the heavy rain. Officials said the flooding could have been much worse if it weren't for the flood gates and pump system keeping additional water out of the area.
On Saturday, crews closed three flood gates for the first time in 16 years. Luckily, the water didn't get high enough to reach those gates.
But if it weren't for a massive flood control project that rerouted the Cumberland River in the late 80s, and installing the gates, Harlan could be under water today after such heavy rain over the weekend.
A devastating flood in Harlan County in 1977 led to federal action, creating the flood control system the county has today.
Six years of construction resulted in nine flood gates, levees, a three-pump water removal system and a way to reroute the Cumberland River out of Harlan.
"Had the river still come through the City of Harlan, we would have had flooding downtown without question," Harlan County Judge Executive Dan Mosley said.
The river is routed out of the city through a massive tunnel system. When water from storm drains begins to fill, the old river's location downtown is pumped out.
Mosley said for more than 30 hours this weekend, crews pumped out 70 million gallons of water. They also closed one third of their flood gates, which is a rare move.
"The first one to close closes usually when the water hits 20 feet at the Baxter river gate," Mosley said.
It can take up to 30 minutes to close one gate as a team of six people and heavy machinery is needed. Rubber is inserted at the bottom, so nothing can leak through.
The river rose rapidly on Saturday, and at one point, rising up at two feet per hour. Thankfully, water never made it up to any of the three flood gates that closed.
"This is kind of the point where it warrants that we move, and go ahead and close so that there's plenty of time to get people out of harm's way," Mosley said.
Mosley said the system as a whole saved countless lives and homes from disaster over the years.
The gates will remain open Monday night, and Mosley said he doesn't think the rainfall this week will be bad enough to close them again, but they're remaining vigilant.