Kentucky floods kill at least 16, governor warns toll ‘could be much higher’

Search and rescue teams backed by the National Guard searched Friday for people missing in record flooding that wiped out entire communities in some of the poorest parts of the United States. KentuckyThe governor said at least 16 people have died, and he expects the number to rise.

Governor Andy Beshear said at least six of the victims were children.

“It’s difficult,” the governor told reporters during a briefing Friday afternoon. “It’s still tough for those families and those communities, so keep praying. There’s a lot more, a lot more unaccounted for. We’re going to do everything we can to find them all.”

Beshear said the death toll earlier Friday was “going to be much higher.” He said authorities may update the death toll “for the next several weeks” later.

Powerful floodwaters engulfed cities, dammed creeks and streams in Appalachian valleys and ravines, swamped homes and businesses, left vehicles in useless piles, and crushed running equipment and debris against bridges. Mudslides swamped people on steep slopes, leaving thousands of customers without power.

“We still have a lot of searching to do,” said Jerry Stacey, emergency manager for Kentucky’s hardest-hit Perry County. “We still have missing people.”

Eastern Kentucky floods
Flooded homes along the Cross Loop of KY-15 from the North Fork of the Kentucky River on July 28, 2022.

Arden S. Barnes/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The floodwaters rushed through the area so violently and quickly that residents, still recovering from the last flood, did not have time to evacuate.

“I lost everything — twice,” Dennis Cross told CBS affiliate WKYT-TV. “This makes it doubly obvious that I’ve lost everything, and I’m not the only one.”

Emergency crews performed 50 air rescues and hundreds of water rescues Thursday, and many more still need help, the governor said. “It’s not just an ongoing disaster, it’s an ongoing search and rescue. Some areas won’t have water until tomorrow.”

Determining the number of people unaccounted for by cell service and electricity across the disaster area is difficult, he said: “It’s so widespread, it’s a challenge even for local authorities to put the numbers together.”

More than 290 people have taken shelter, Beshear said. He sent National Guard troops to the worst-hit areas. Three parks set up shelters, and property damage was extensive, the governor said at the opening Online portal for donations For victims. President Biden called to express his support for a lengthy recovery effort, which Beshear said will take more than a year to fully rebuild.

“This is the worst we’ve had in a while,” Breathitt County Emergency Management Director Chris Friley told WKYT-TV. “It’s countywide again. There are still many places inaccessible to rescue teams.”

Perry County dispatchers told WKYT-TV that floodwaters swept away roads and bridges and knocked homes off their foundations. The city of Hazard said rescue crews were out through the night, urging people on Facebook to stay off the roads and “pray for a break in the rain.”

Mr. But too Declared a federal disaster The Federal Emergency Management Agency assigned an official to coordinate the recovery effort and send relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties.

Beshear had planned to tour the disaster area on Friday, but postponed it due to unsafe conditions at the airport where they planned to land, his office said. Then he saw the flood in a helicopter. He Tweeted “The situation is still devastating to witness” and added that it is a “long road to recovery”.

After continuous rains for the past few days, more rain fell on Friday. The storm sent water flowing down hillsides and gushing out of streams, inundating roads and forcing rescuers to use helicopters and boats to reach trapped people. Flooding also damaged parts of West Virginia and southern West Virginia.

“There are hundreds of families that have lost everything,” Beshear said. “And a lot of these families don’t have much to begin with. So it still hurts. But we’re going to be there for them.”

resistance.US Eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia reported more than 31,000 customers without power as of Friday evening, with most of Kentucky outages.

Van Jackson checks on his dog, Jack, who was stranded in a church by floodwaters following a day of heavy rain in Garrett, Kentucky, on July 28, 2022.
Van Jackson checks on his dog, Jack, who was stranded in a church by floodwaters following a day of heavy rain in Garrett, Kentucky, on July 28, 2022.

Pat McDonough/USA TODAY Network via Reuters

Rescue crews worked to reach people in Virginia and West Virginia where roads were impassable. Flooding downed trees, knocked out power and closed roads in six counties in West Virginia. Governor Glenn Young also declared a state of emergency to help Virginia mobilize resources throughout the flooded areas of Southwest Virginia.

“With more rainfall expected over the next few days, we want to lean forward in providing more resources to help those affected,” Youngin said in a statement.

Another storm ahead could add to the woes of flood-affected residents, the National Weather Service said St. LouisMissouri, Friday could bring more thunderstorms to the Appalachians early next week.

Brandon Bonds, a weather service meteorologist in Jackson, Kentucky, said the hardest-hit areas of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches in a 48-hour period ending Thursday. Heavy rain fell overnight in some areas, including Martin County, prompting a new flash flood warning for another 3 inches or so Friday.

The North Fork of the Kentucky River rose to break records in at least two places. A river gauge in Whitesburg registered 20.9 feet, more than 6 feet above the previous record, and the river set a record in Jackson at 43.5 feet, Bonds said.

Crystal Holbrook had had enough Thursday, as her family ran through the night to move vehicles, campers, trailers and equipment as rapidly rising floodwaters threatened Jackson. “The higher ground gets a little tougher,” she said.

In Whitesburg, Kentucky, floodwaters entered Appleshop, an arts and education center renowned for promoting and preserving the region’s history and culture.

“We don’t really know the full extent of the damage because we couldn’t go into the building safely or really get close to it,” said Meredith Skalos, its director of communications. “We know some of our archival material has flooded the streets of Whitesburg from the building.”

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