HINDMAN, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor said it could take weeks to find all the victims of flash flooding that killed at least 25 people when torrential rains swamped towns across Appalachia.
Gov. Andy Beshear stated Saturday that there was a high possibility of more victims due to the record-breaking flash floods of the last few days.
“This is an ongoing natural disaster,” Beshear told Fox News. We are currently in rescue and search mode. The rain stopped, thankfully. But it’s going to rain more starting Sunday afternoon.”
Rescue crews continue the struggle to get into hard-hit areas, some of them among the poorest places in America. Crews have made more than 1,200 rescues from helicopters and boats, the governor said.
Beshear, who flew over parts of the flood-stricken region on Friday, described it as “just total devastation, the likes of which we have never seen.”
“We are committed to a full rebuilding effort to get these folks back on their feet,” Beshear said. “But for now, we’re just praying that we don’t lose anybody else.”
The rain let up early Friday after parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) over 48 hours. Some waterways did not reach their crests until Saturday.
Patricia Colombo, 63, of Hazard, Kentucky, became stranded when her car stalled in floodwaters on a state highway. Colombo panicked when the water began to rush in. Though her phone was dead, she saw a helicopter overhead and waved it down. The helicopter crew radioed a ground team that plucked her to safety.
Colombo spent the night with her fiancé in Jackson, checking on the water constantly using flashlights. Although her car was damaged, Colombo stated that others suffered worse conditions in an area where poverty is rampant.
” Many of these people are unable to recover here. She said that they have houses half submerged, and everything is gone.
This is the latest of a string of catastrophic deluges which have battered parts of the U.S.A this summer. It also includes St. Louis, Missouri earlier in the week and again Friday. Scientists warn climate change is making weather disasters more common.
As rainfall hammered Appalachia this week, water tumbled down hillsides and into valleys and hollows where it swelled creeks and streams coursing through small towns. It engulfed businesses and homes, and destroyed vehicles. Some people were trapped on steep hills by mudslides. Officials say at least six children died, four of them from Knott County.
President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than 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, the governor of Virginia also issued an emergency declaration. This allowed officials to mobilize resources in the flood-prone southwest region.
About 18,000 utility customers in Kentucky remained without power early Saturday, 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 increasing challenges during natural disasters. Models used to forecast storms are based in part on historical events, and cannot keep pace with the growing number of flash floods or heat waves such as those recently experienced by the Pacific Northwest region and the southern Plains.
” “It’s an ongoing battle of extremes in the United States,” stated Jason Furtado, University of Oklahoma meteorologist. 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 Perry County’s hard-hit Perry County authorities stated that some individuals were still unaccounted for while almost all of the affected areas sustained some kind of damage.
“We’ve still got a lot of searching to do,” said Jerry Stacy, the county’s emergency management director.
Portions of at least 28 state roads in Kentucky were blocked due to flooding or mudslides. Rescue crews in Virginia and West Virginia worked to reach people where roads weren’t passable.
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