In 13 counties in eastern Kentucky, torrential rain earlier this week led to severe flash floods. Finding survivors is challenging since so many roads and bridges in that hilly area—an area heavily struck by crushing poverty as the coal industry declines—have been damaged or destroyed. Cell phone connection has also been hampered.
Governor Andy Beshear, who had just tweeted that there were now 25 fatalities, stated in a midday news briefing, “I’m scared we’re going to be finding dead for weeks to come.”
We will get through this together, the Democratic governor assured everyone, confirming that “we are still in the search and rescue phase.”
Six youngsters were mistakenly listed as being among the dead in an earlier report, according to Beshear; two of them were actually adults.
According to US media, the youngsters were tragically lost. A family that was clinging to a tree as a quickly rising torrent devoured their mobile home witnessed their children being ripped from their grasp by the powerfully flowing waves one by one.
Beshear reported that since the floods started on Wednesday evening, national guard units from Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia had performed more than 650 air rescues, while state police and other state employees had recorded over 750 water rescues.
He described the search as “very stressful and challenging” for rescue personnel.
More than eight inches (20 centimeters) of rain were reported in certain eastern Kentucky locations in a 24-hour period.
A startling 20 feet of water rose to the North Fork of the Kentucky River near Whitesburg in a matter of hours, breaking the previous record of 14.7 feet.
Next comes more rain
Numerous roads became rivers as a result of the floods, and several low-lying homes were nearly entirely inundated, with just their rooftops still visible.
Social media posts depicted images of homes being torn free of their moorings and dumped amid mountains of trash along murky waterways or even atop a bridge.
The weather offered a respite on Saturday, but more rain was expected the following day, with one to two additional inches expected.
Beshear told CNN on Saturday that the impending rain posed a challenge, and “while we don’t think it’ll be historic rain, it’ll be hard.”
He said during the briefing that 15 emergency shelters had been opened in schools, churches and state parks, though at least one had been “overwhelmed.”
Some 18,000 homes remained without power, Beshear said, and thousands were without safe water supplies.
The governor said the Federal Emergency Management Agency had sent 18 tractor-trailers of water so far. Other federal workers were arriving to process claims.
President Joe Biden has issued a disaster declaration for the Kentucky flooding, allowing federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
The eastern Kentucky flooding is the latest in a series of extreme weather events that scientists say are an unmistakable sign of climate change.
In December 2021, a tornado killed over 60 people in western Kentucky; Beshear claimed that event provided lessons for current efforts on the other end of the state.
He added on CNN, “We learned a lot of lessons from those horrible tornadoes in western Kentucky about seven months ago, so we are offering as much support as we can and moving quickly from all over the state to help out.”
Beshear showed sympathy for the hard-hit residents in his briefing.
We are unable to fathom the agony you are currently experiencing, he continued.