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

National Guard-backed search-and-rescue teams searched Friday for people missing from record flooding that wiped out entire communities in some of the poorest parts of the United States. Kentucky’s governor said 16 people diedAs the rain continues, he expects a number.

“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.”

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. Mud left people on steep slopes and at least 33,000 customers without power.

Gov. Andy Beshear told The Associated Press on Friday that the victims included children, and that the death toll could double as rescue teams searched the disaster area.

“The hard news is now 16 confirmed deaths, and everyone is going to have more,” the governor said during a late morning briefing. He said the deaths occurred in four eastern Kentucky counties.

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

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 200 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.

Friley told WKYT-TV, “It’s county-wide again. There’s still a lot of places that rescue crews can’t get to.”

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.”

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 More than 33,000 customers were without power in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia on Friday, 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. Floodwaters 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.

Although some floodwaters recede after Thursday’s peak, flash flooding is possible in places across the region through Friday evening, the National Weather Service said.

The hardest-hit areas of eastern Kentucky received 8 to 10 1/2 inches in the 48 hours ending Thursday, said Brandon Bonds, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. 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 broke records in at least two places. A river gauge in Whitesburg was recorded at 20.9 feet (6.4 meters), 6 feet (1.8 meters) higher than the previous record, and the river in Jackson was a record 43.47 feet (13.25 meters), Bonds said.

Bonds said heavy rain is expected in some places on Friday afternoon and will start to dry out on Saturday “before things pick up again on Sunday and into next week”.

Krystal Holbrook had already had enough Thursday, her family running through the night to move vehicles, campers, trailers and equipment as flash floods threatened her southeastern Kentucky town of 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 know exactly 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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