Gov. Andy Beshear says Kentucky flooding death toll jumps to at least 25

At least 25 people have died since the floods kentucky on Thursday, Governor Andy Beshear tweeted on Saturday. He said the death toll “is likely to increase”.

“To everyone in eastern Kentucky, we will be there for you today and for the weeks, months and years to come,” he wrote. “Let’s get through this together.”

He is due to hold a press conference at 12:00 pm EDT on Saturday.

A house rests on a bridge near the Whitesburg Recycling Center in Letcher County, Kentucky on Friday, July 29, 2022.

Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Powerful waters engulfed cities that hug creeks and creeks in Appalachian valleys and valleys, inundating homes and businesses, leaving vehicles in useless piles, and smashing uncontrolled equipment and debris against bridges. Landslides left people on steep slopes and 16,000 customers were still without power on Saturday morning, according to Kentucky Power.

The record flooding decimated entire communities in some of the poorest places in America. The governor said on Friday it could take weeks to find victims.

Determining the number of missing persons is difficult with cell service and electricity throughout the disaster area, Beshear said: “This is so widespread that it is challenging even for local authorities to gather that number.”

“We still have a lot to research,” said Jerry Stacy, director of emergency management for Perry County, Kentucky. “We still have people missing.”

The rain eased on Friday after parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches in 48 hours. But some waterways were not supposed to rise until Saturday.

Patricia Colombo, 63, of Hazard, Kentucky, was trapped when her car got stuck in floodwaters on a state highway. Columbus started to panic as the water started to come in. Though her phone was muted, she saw a helicopter overhead and waved it down. The helicopter crew radioed to a ground crew who rescued her safely.

East Kentucky Flood
Homes along the Gross Loop of KY-15 are flooded with water from the North Fork of the Kentucky River, July 28, 2022.

Arden S. Barnes/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Columbus spent the night at her fiance’s house in Jackson and they took turns sleeping, repeatedly checking the water with flashlights to see if it was rising. Though her car was a loss, Colombo said others had it worse in a region where poverty is endemic.

“Many of these people cannot recover here. They have half-submerged houses, they have lost everything,” she said.

Rescue teams supported by the National Guard used helicopters and boats to search for the missing. Beshear said on Friday that at least six children were among the victims. Among those who died were four children from the same family in Knott County, the county coroner said Friday.

President Biden said in a social media post that he spoke on Friday with Beshear and offered the federal government’s support. Biden also declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen counties in Kentucky.

The flood extended to western Virginia and southern West Virginia.

Severe weather Appalachians
Homes are flooded by Lost Creek, Kentucky on Thursday, July 28, 2022. Heavy rains caused flooding and landslides as storm surges hit parts of the central Appalachians. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says it is one of the worst floods in the state’s history.

Ryan C. Hermens/AP

Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six West Virginia counties, where flooding toppled trees, power outages and blocked roads. Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin also issued an emergency declaration, allowing officials to mobilize resources across the flooded southwest of the state.

It is the latest in a series of catastrophic floods that have hit parts of the US this summer.

Just two days before the Kentucky floods, record rainfall in St. Louis fell more than 12 inches and killed at least two people. Last month, heavy rain on mountain snow in Yellowstone National Park sparked historic flooding and the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. In both cases, the rain floods far exceeded what meteorologists predicted.

The floodwaters that hit the Appalachians were so fast that some people trapped in their homes could not be reached immediately, Floyd County Executive Judge Robbie Williams said.

Just to the west, in hard-hit Perry County, officials said some people remained missing and nearly everyone in the area suffered some form of damage.

“We still have a lot to research,” said Jerry Stacy, the county’s director of emergency management.

More than 330 people sought shelter, Beshear said. And with the material damage so extensive, the governor opened an online portal for donations to victims.

Beshear predicted that it would take more than a year to completely rebuild.

Parts of at least 28 state roads in Kentucky have been blocked due to flooding or landslides. Rescue teams in Virginia and West Virginia worked to reach people where roads were not passable.

And it may not be over. Some waterways are expected to crest on Saturday and more storms are expected to pass through the region early next week.

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