Convention center to stay closed until river level lowers to 52 feet

PADUCAH, KY — The Paducah-McCracken County Convention and Expo Center is out of service due to floodwaters, City Engineer Rick Murphy told county leaders Monday.

“We’ve had a 53-foot river three times since the flood wall was built — 1950, 2011, and this present flood,” Murphy said.

To prevent floodwaters from reaching the convention center, crews have installed a barrier filled with sand, called a HESCO bastion, in addition to closing the floodgates. That leaves the center with just one entrance — on Campbell Street — that goes into the convention center parking lot. That would be a safety issue if there was an emergency at the convention center.

“From an emergency operations point of view, we would not want to have that building and parking lot occupied in case there was a breach, because we would have no way of getting people out,” said Murphy.

As a result, Murphy said the convention center won’t be available until floodwaters go down and some floodgates are re-opened.

“Until the river gets back to about 52 feet, it’s the only time that I’ll feel comfortable in saying, ‘OK, let’s pull the gates — the water is receding — and continue on with business there,” Murphy said.

Murphy estimated it would take about 10 days for the river to get back to about 52 feet.

Convention Center Executive Director Michelle Campbell agreed that safety is a top priority.

“It’s just kind of an act of God, and we’re working the best we can with the event planners,” she said.

Commissioners asked Murphy if the dome pavilion can be used instead to hold events that would take place in the convention center. Murphy said with lighting and other electrical work, it would take two to three weeks to get the dome fully functional. By then, the convention center would likely be ready for the public.

In that meeting, we also learned that the McCracken County Sheriff’s Department will start citing people who ignore road closure signs in place due to flooding.