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Articles by Austyn Gaffney

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This story was published in collaboration with The Bitter Southerner and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.


Well past midnight on July 28, 2022, 12-year-old Kaleigh Baker tiptoed into her mom’s room and rustled her awake. “Mommy, the house shook,” Kaleigh said.

Linda Baker, still groggy, heard only the air conditioner’s whirr. She told Kaleigh it was probably just thunder. Kaleigh crept back upstairs. Minutes later, Linda heard a deluge of water. From the back door, she saw rain pounding down on a wall of mud almost 8 feet tall that had slammed against their home’s vinyl siding. Linda recognized the disaster: another landslide.

Linda raced to round up Kaleigh, 16-year-old son Ian, and the dogs. By 2:30 a.m., they’d thrown essentials into bags and fled toward Hazard, the county seat roug... Read more

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