At least 37 dead in flooding, Kentucky’s governor says

Rescue efforts in Kentucky are continuing following flash floods that left 37 dead. (CNN, WLEX, WOLFE COUNTY SEARCH & RESCUE TEAM, JESSICA WILLETT)
Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 8:46 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 1, 2022 at 5:33 PM CDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT/Gray News) - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday evening that the death toll has risen to at least 37 after devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky.

Hundreds of people remained unaccounted for five days after one of the nation’s poorest regions was swamped by nearly a foot of rain. The water poured down hillsides and into valleys and hollows, engulfing entire towns. Mudslides marooned some people on steep slopes.

Beshear suggested many of the unaccounted for would be located when cellphone service resumes.

“When cell service gets back up, we do see a whole lot of people finding people they love and care about, so looking forward to those stories,” he said.

Radar indicated that up to 4 more inches (10.2 centimeters) of rain fell Sunday, and the National Weather Service warned that slow-moving showers and thunderstorms could provoke more flash flooding through Tuesday morning.

“If things weren’t hard enough on the people of this region, they’re getting rain right now,” Beshear said Monday at the Capitol in Frankfort. “Just as concerning is high winds — think about how saturated the ground has been.” The wind “could knock over poles, it could knock over trees. So people need to be careful.”

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An approaching heat wave means “it’s even going to get tougher when the rain stops,” the governor said. “We need to make sure people are ultimately stable by that point.”

Beshear also says more than 12,000 people are still without power, but that’s down from over 24,000 at the peak of the flooding.

Authorities said at least 15 of the deaths are reported in Knott County. Four of those deaths are children. The governor said the oldest was in second grade.

Six deaths are confirmed in Breathitt County, three in Perry County, two in Letcher County and two in Clay County.

Beshear said the number of missing is in the hundreds. He said search and rescue crews are still running into areas difficult to access.

“We have hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, hundreds of people displaced, but we are moving and moving fast,” said Beshear.

Kentucky State Police is responding to the areas of eastern Kentucky that are affected.

State parks, schools, churches and community centers across eastern Kentucky are sheltering Kentuckians displaced by flooding.

Beshear said the first travel trailers to help house people arrived in eastern Kentucky Saturday. He said Jenny Wiley State Park in Floyd County is full, but the trailers are there to help increase capacity.

There are 14 emergency shelters open, assisting 483 people.

Beshear said Friday morning President Joe Biden ordered federal aid to assist with recovery efforts in 13 eastern Kentucky counties.

He said he expects additional counties to be added to the federal declaration for individual assistance. He says the five counties that were initially named were because that’s where FEMA got to first.

Many organizations have taken the initiative to help those affected by the flooding.

“We want to make sure we wrap our arms around our eastern Kentucky brothers and sisters and make sure they are OK,” said Beshear.

Beshear said the No. 1 need right now is water, and you can go to the state’s flood resource website to see where to send those donations.

Copyright 2022 WKYT via Gray Media Group, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.