JACKSON, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor said it could take weeks to find all the victims of flash flooding that killed at least 16 people when heavy rains turned streams into torrents that swamped towns across Appalachia. More rainstorms are expected to hit the area in the coming days. This kept the area on edge, as emergency crews tried to reach the hardest-hit areas which include the most disadvantaged parts of America.
The rain let up early Friday after some areas of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) over 48 hours. But some waterways were not expected to crest until Saturday and Gov. Andy Beshear warned the death toll could rise sharply.
” Based on everything that we have seen, it is possible to update the number of people we lose over the coming weeks.” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “In some of these areas, it’s hard to know exactly how many people were there.”
Patricia Colombo, 63, of Hazard, Kentucky, got stranded after her car stalled in floodwaters on a state highway. Colombo began to panic when water started rushing in. Although her phone was dead, she saw an aircraft overhead and waved down. A helicopter crew called a ground team and they pulled her from her car.
Colombo spent the night in Jackson with her fiancé and checked the water constantly using flashlights. Colombo said that her car was stolen, but others suffered worse conditions in an area where poverty is rampant.
“They are unable to recover from here. She said that they have houses which are only half-submerged and lost all their belongings.
This is the latest of a series of deluges which have decimated parts of the U.S.A., such as St. Louis this week and again Friday .. Scientists warn climate change is making weather disasters more common.
As rainfall pounded Appalachia this week, water poured down hillsides and into valleys and hollows where it swelled creeks and streams coursing through small towns. It flooded homes, businesses, and destroyed vehicles. Mudslides marooned some people on steep slopes.
Rescue teams backed by the National Guard used helicopters and boats to search for the missing. Beshear stated Friday that six children were among those who died. The number could rise as rescue teams expand their reach to more places. Four children were killed by the rescue teams in Knott county, according to Coroner Corey Watson.
President Joe Biden said in a social media post that he spoke with Beshear on Friday to offer the federal government’s support. Biden declared the federal disaster in order to provide relief funds to over a dozen Kentucky counties.
The flooding extended into western Virginia and southern West Virginia.
Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in West Virginia where the flooding downed trees, power outages and blocked roads. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also made an emergency declaration, enabling officials to mobilize resources across the flooded southwest of the state.
More than 20,000 utility customers in Kentucky and almost 6,100 in Virginia remained without power late Friday, poweroutage.us reported. According to scientists,
Extreme rainfall events are becoming more frequent as climate change alters weather patterns and bakes the earth. Officials face a greater challenge when dealing with disasters. Models used to forecast storms are mostly based on historical events. They can’t cope with increasingly destructive flash floods or heat waves, such as those recently experienced in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains.
“It’s a battle of extremes going on right now in the United States,” said University of Oklahoma meteorologist Jason Furtado. These are the things that climate change will cause. … A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and that means you can produce increased heavy rainfall.”
The deluge came two days after record rains around St. Louis dropped more than 12 inches (31 centimeters) and killed at least two people. Last month, heavy rain on mountain snow in Yellowstone National Park triggered historic flooding and the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. Both instances were more extreme than forecasters had predicted.
Floodwaters that raged through Appalachia were swift enough to trap people in their homes, according to Robbie Williams, Floyd County Judge-Executive.
Just to the west in hard-hit Perry County, authorities said some people remained unaccounted for and almost everyone in the area had suffered some sort of damage. We still have a lot to search for,” Jerry Stacy said, Perry County’s emergency management director.
More than 330 people have sought shelter, Beshear said. The governor also opened an online donation portal to help victims of property damage.
Beshear said that it would take over a year for the entire area to be rebuilt.
Friday’s flooding was viewed from a helicopter by the governor.
“Hundreds of homes, the ballfields, the parks, businesses under more water than I think any of us have ever seen in that area,” the governor said. “Absolutely impassable in numerous spots. Just devastating.”
Portions of at least 28 state roads in Kentucky were blocked due to flooding or mudslides, Beshear said. Rescue crews in Virginia and West Virginia worked to reach people where roads weren’t passable.
Brown reported from Billings, Montana. Rebecca Reynolds, Kentucky; Timothy D. Easley, Jackson, Kentucky and Sarah Brumfield, Silver Spring, Maryland are the contributors.
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