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When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in 2017, Leslie Bledsoe was dismayed by what she saw on TV. So she and a group traveled from Harlan, Kentucky, to Texas to distribute supplies.

Afterward, Bledsoe wanted to continue helping people in need, so she co-founded a nonprofit called With Love From Harlan. Little did she know her hometown would soon face its own disaster.

In February 2020, floods and mudslides ravaged Harlan County after days of heavy rain. In a trailer park, the water rose chest-high.

“One family, she had been homeless for many weeks. She had just moved into this trailer probably three weeks before the flooding happened,” Bledsoe says.

Bledsoe’s nonprofit rushed to provide cleaning supplies to victims.

“And then we helped them get furniture and clothing and things like that try to help them rebuild,” she says.

A year later, residents fear disaster could strike again. Climate change is bringing more intense storms. And mining has disturbed the land, which can increase the risk of floods.

Yet many in the floodplain cannot afford to move.

“They basically don’t have a choice but to stay there,” Bledsoe says.

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Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Weather Extremes