The death toll found in Kentucky after the devastating flooding has risen to 25 and is likely to continue to rise, Governor Andy Beshear said Saturday.
The announcement comes a day after Beshear and other officials predicted with certainty that the toll would rise from the previous year after torrential downpours led to historic flooding on Wednesday and Thursday.
Beshear said at a news conference Saturday that four children were among the dead, amending earlier reports by officials that six children had died.
Saturday will likely be decisive, as the state continues its recovery efforts in the hard-hit Appalachian region. Beshear said National Guard units and other emergency response forces have carried out at least 1,200 air and water rescues to date, including rescuing more than 600 people by helicopter. promoted.
Beshear added that officials are “still in the search and rescue phase” and hope to be able to reach newly flooded communities, as tributaries of the Kentucky River and other waterways recede relative to historical level. But he warned of what rescuers might find later, saying repeatedly during the press conference that they except the death toll would rise.
“I’m worried that we’ll have to find the body for weeks to come,” Beshear said.
Weather reports called for no rain on Saturday, adding to the urgency of rescue operations ahead of a forecast of 1 to 2 more inches of rain in the coming days.
Already flooded areas are bracing for more threatening weather
After enduring a day of rain Saturday, communities in central and eastern Kentucky are bracing for potential flooding this weekend.
National Weather Service in Jackson issued New flood warning Saturday for many areas already have water. Overflowing water from showers and thunderstorms Sunday through Monday could lead to flooding of rivers, creeks and streams across much of central and eastern Kentucky, according to the weather agency.
Ed Ray, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky, said additional storms could bring 1 to 2 inches of rain – but the pre-storm zone is expected to move through that didn’t last as long as it did during Thursday’s flooding, said Ed Ray, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky.
“Because we’ve had such a heavy impact, it’s not going to cause much of a problem,” Ray told USA TODAY. “Any rain you get just adds insult to injury.”
Ray said communities affected by flooding could see an opportunity to “recover” with drier weather by the end of next week.
But Beshear on Saturday said the midweek hot temperature forecast presents its own challenges as tens of thousands of households and businesses are currently without water or are being advised about boiling water.
“It will be very hot,” Beshear said. “It can create its own emergency.”
Flooding in Kentucky affected a large area; thousands are still without electricity
Severe flooding affected a large swath of the mountains of eastern Kentucky, spanning about a dozen counties with a total land area comparable to Connecticut.
During Saturday’s press conference, Beshear said that more than 18,000 electricity customers remained without power. Water services have also been greatly affected, with more than 26,000 “service connections” – homes, businesses or public buildings – without water. Another 29,000 people are being counseled about boiling water..
Mr. Beshear said that eighteen wastewater treatment plants were also limited in operation mainly due to flooded infrastructure, including three plants that transfer waste directly to waterways.
As of Saturday morning, river gauges sprinkled across the region were still recording dangerously high flows. At Martin’s Fork about 10 miles from the state’s southern border with Virginia, water flow is still five times higher than average for this time of year.
Unprecedented floods in Kentucky evoke fears of recovery, future disasters
Even as rescue operations continued on Saturday, the people of Kentuckia were come to capture with the historic nature of the devastation, and the long road to recovery ahead.
On Casey Wright’s front lawn in Whitesburg, flooded furniture is scattered across the front lawn. She invite a reporter to survey the damage inside her home.
“Everybody needs to see,” she said. The flood had left mud on the floor and walls of her house. The mattress on which her son Drake was sleeping was soaked with water.
Elsewhere in the city, employees of an Appalachian cultural center worry about a “massive loss” of historic photographs, and residents wonder why government aid has yet to reach them.
Speaking at Saturday’s press conference, Beshear himself appeared momentarily stunned by the devastation.
“We didn’t lose this many people in the flood,” Beshear said. “This is a real difficulty.
Climate change is increasing the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, scientists say, and could lead to storm systems shutting down over the same area. They associate those trends with a increase in extreme rainfall eventswith 2021, the third highest number among billion dollar disaster in profile.
Even for survivors, such disasters cause human suffering. Government insurance and relief programs are often failed to work for the entire community in the aftermath of destruction, or take years to do so.
“There is now widespread recognition that this is not a one-time occurrence,” said Carolyn Kousky, a disaster finance expert and executive director of the Wharton Risk Center at the University of Pennsylvania. that we are on a trajectory of increasing risk. TODAY early this year. “We will see this and much worse in the years to come. This is not sustainable.”
Family hopes to find missing loved ones
In the days following the floods, foster families hope to reconnect with missing family members. Some people have yet to be found in an area of Kentucky where cell phone and electricity service was unreliable after the floods.
On Thursday, dozens seek shelter in a gym in Breathitt County. Among them is Heather Akers, whose son is an American soldier deployed in Africa. Her son’s wife, Ashley Branson, 23, and their two children were missing after the flood. Their trailer was found abandoned, but another survivor said she heard the mother and daughter had been picked up by a rescue vehicle, its destination unknown.
Akers told the Louisville Courier-Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, her son passed on a message to her.
“He told me to go find his children,” she said.
Elsewhere in hard-hit Breathitt, Chad residents and April Stiver stand on the roof of a house they just spent 18 months remodeling. Now, they are using a hammer to smash through its roof. The day before, it had been briefly flooded with floodwater from Troublesome Creek, located about 75 feet away.
Chad said: “The water ran from my ankles to my chest in 45 minutes. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
When the water rose on Thursday morning, this couple climbed onto the roof of their home with their son and five huskies. April’s mother appealed for help on Facebook. That led to them being rescued by plane. But the husks must be left behind.
However, April said, it could be even worse.
“If (my mother) doesn’t get to someone, I don’t know what will happen, because I can’t swim,” she said.
Contributors: Caleb Stultz, Lucas Aulbach, Maggie Menderski and Thomas Birmingham, The Courier-Journal; Jordan D. Brown, USA TODAY; Related press