At least eight people confirmed dead Thursday, after heavy rain caused massive flooding across eastern Kentucky, leaving residents stranded on rooftops and others without electricity or water as forecasts suggest more rain.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he expects the death toll to rise to double digits, calling it one of the “worst, most devastating floods” in state history. He said storms are forecast Thursday night and weekend which means impacts could worsen, potentially hampering both rescue efforts and work to restore water and electricity.
“This is an ongoing disaster and continues to put people at risk,” Beshear said Thursday night. “Our death toll is going up, … and a lot of families out there have completely lost everything.”
Beshear declared a state of emergency for all of Kentucky, and the National Guard was mobilized.
“We’ve probably not seen the worst of it yet,” said Beshear.
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Kentucky counties affected by flooding; fear of double-digit death
General Hal Lamberton of the Kentucky National Guard said crews were working to rescue people trapped on rooftops. Staff at one school were also stranded, he said.
More than 6 inches of rain fell went overnight on Thursday morning, leaving the street underwater. Several inches are expected on Friday and forecasters with the National Weather Service warn of heavy rain and possible flooding. all weekend.
In Perry County, 20 people were not named early Thursday, said Deputy Sheriff Scott Sandlin. The area has been affected by major flooding, he said, with some bridges and roads inundated with water and other structures destroyed.
Beshear said an 81-year-old Perry County woman was among those killed in the flood. Information about the other seven victims was not immediately released.
“Guys, I don’t know how much more rain Buckhorn can take,” said Marlene Abner Stokely in a video she posted on Facebook, showing Squabble Creek overflowing and engulfing a historic Kentucky church like how. “You can see it’s been pretty much taken over.”
In Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky, floodwaters covered roads and swept away homes and businesses. Authorities said a volunteer fire brigade had to leave its flood station.
The governor warned drivers not to drive in flood water. He said teams were investigating reports of a large lorry with two people inside that may have been swept away.
“I don’t want to lose anyone else,” Beshear said.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell spoke with Beshear and will travel to Kentucky on Friday to survey flood damage, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced Thursday.
“Our hearts go out to the people of South, Southwest Kentucky, which are experiencing significant flash flooding that has claimed many lives,” said Jean-Pierre.
She said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation and a FEMA incident management team has been dispatched.
On Thursday night, Beshear announced that he had asked Biden directly for federal assistance: “The damage suffered is enormous and recovery will be a long effort,” he tweeted. “This support is vital to our efforts and necessary for our people.”
More rain forecast in Kentucky
Several residents and news organizations posted photos and videos on social media early Thursday showing water spilling through streets in Buckhorn, Breathitt and Perry counties. Chris Bailey, WCYT’s chief meteorologist, described it as “one of the worst flash floods ever to hit the state.”
Over the past two days, at least 6.82 inches of rain has fallen in Knott County, 7 inches in Perry County and about 7 inches in County, said Dustin Jordan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson. Breathitt.
At least 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected Thursday night through Friday south of Interstate 64, he said. Flash floods may occur in some areas, forecast recital.
Meteorologists say rainy conditions are forecast throughout the weekend and even into next weekmay lead to more flooding.
Beshear said more than 25,000 homes and businesses were without power as of Thursday afternoon. A relief fund has been established launched to support those affected.
Contribution: Associated Press