BUCKHORN, Ky. – Devastated communities across eastern Kentucky began digging Sunday as the state’s death toll rose again and another storm threatened to expand historic flooding.
The death toll as of Sunday night was 28, according to the governor’s office, up from 26 earlier in the day. State officials say they still expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.
Dozens of people have yet to be found and some areas are inaccessible to search and rescue teams. Spotty mobile phone service added to the chaos.
Signs of survival and heroism are everywhere, said Governor Andy Beshear.
“Many people…have lost everything, but they’re not even getting the goods for themselves, they’re getting them for other people in their neighborhood, making sure the neighbors,” Beshear said. Theirs is fine.
The National Weather Service warned that excessive water flow due to showers and thunderstorms on Sunday and Monday could lead to further flooding of rivers, creeks and streams. Rain rates of up to 2 inches an hour can cause flash flooding, especially in areas with repeated thunderstorms.
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Hard-hit counties, including Floyd, Knott and Perry, have been alerted. Electricity, water, shelter and cellular services are key issues in some communities, says Beshear. Flooding is inundating residential areas where people don’t have much to start with, he said, and a heatwave forecast this week will exacerbate suffering.
The floods have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and displaced hundreds of people, he said.
“We wanted to make sure we put our arms around the brothers and sisters in eastern Kentucky and made sure they were okay,” Beshear said. “We’ll be there for you today, tomorrow, next week, next year. We’re not going anywhere. We’ll help you rebuild.”
The worst-affected areas of eastern Kentucky received an almost footfall of rain last weekend. The Kentucky River’s North Fork reached 20.9 feet in Whitesburg, 6 feet more than the previous record and hit a record high of 43.5 feet in Jackson, National Weather Service meteorologist Brandon Bonds said. .
The National Weather Service said up to 4 inches of rain in some areas on Sunday, with more rain possible.
And the rains on Sunday and Monday won’t be the end of it, the weather service warned. Thunderstorms are possible Tuesday, as well as Thursday through Saturday.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, dozens of shelters opened for flood victims across the state attracted 388 residents Sunday. About 70 trailers – purchased by the state for use after a deadly tornado tore through western Kentucky in December – have been deployed as makeshift shelters.
“Yesterday, our first travel trailers arrived and we are working quickly to establish additional shelter options,” said Beshear.
The state plans to work with hotels in the area to pay for rooms for displaced residents — and to cover funeral costs for those killed in the floods.
More than 1,200 rescues have taken place. State police stations receive calls from people unable to reach family and friends. The National Guard has been called in and is helping first responders go door-to-door to find as many people as possible, Beshear said. Heavy rain made it difficult and impossible to contact some people.
Damage to critical infrastructure challenges rescuers. Many bridges were damaged and roads were washed away, making it difficult to reach communities to provide water and other much-needed necessities.
“The next few days will be difficult,” Beshear said. “We have rain, and maybe even a lot of rain will fall in the same areas.”
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When her home in Whitesburg flooded on Thursday, 17-year-old Chloe Adams put her dog, Sandy, in a plastic crate and swam 70 meters to safety on a neighbor’s roof, waiting for hours. until dawn before a relative on a kayak came and took them away. from harm.
“She is a hero. I love you Chloe. You are simply amazing,” her father, Terry, wrote on Facebook In one post, there was a photo of his daughter sitting suspended in flood water, clinging to the dog. “Today we lost everything…everything but the most important.”
In southeastern Kentucky, small mountain towns that are hard to reach because of fallen trees or flooded roads began digging Sunday. In Buckhorn, a Perry County village of about 130 people, flooding from a tributary of the Middle Fork of the Kentucky River swept cars and destroyed homes Wednesday and Thursday.
At Buckhorn School, a community gathering spot dating back to the early 1900s where more than 300 students were drawn from across the mountains, streams and debris rose from Squabble Creek, running alongside the school, smashed walls, broke windows and tore the asphalt in the parking lot to pieces two weeks before the school year began.
Like other schools in the area, the county’s K-12 Buckhorn Public School serves as an important resource hub for students from low-income families, said special education teacher Kristie Combs, 46, said.
Combs, who first surveyed the damage Saturday after water receded from the road leading to her home in a town 20 miles away.
In a nearby neighborhood along the creek where generators rang on Saturday, Teresa Engle, 33, said her two children, Haley, 8, and EJ, 6, might follow. attend another school.
Engle says she’s happy to be alive. In the early hours of Thursday, she said, her family was trapped by the roaring water that reached the door of the house but was still intact. Others are less fortunate.
“We could see cars and houses going by,” she said. “I’ve never been so scared.”
On Saturday, her daughter gave a stuffed animal and a pair of boots to a neighborhood kid whose home was destroyed.
Buckhorn School teachers and students delivered food, water and supplies to families in need.
High school teacher Jalen Cooper, 27, said: “Some of the children had their homes swept away, explaining that some were staying in hotels and others were staying with relatives who had generators.
“It will take a long time, a lot of effort and a lot of grit,” he said. “But we know how to get through it.”
Knott County has the highest death toll at 14, according to the coroner, which includes all four young siblings. Residents along Troublesome Creek in the community of Fisty call a short stretch of Kentucky Route 550 “Rainbow Lane.” Each house was painted a different color, but the houses were turned into piles of rubble and properties were destroyed. Some residents retreated to the fire department building at higher elevations as the raging creek caused unprecedented destruction.
“There’s never been anything like this before,” said Bert Combs, 58, topless, gazing at the creek and the remains of Rainbow Lane. The rain, he said, “just keeps coming.”
The Biden administration added personal support to the president’s Great Disaster Declaration to help the people of eastern Kentucky who “have lost everything,” noting that the recovery will be long-lasting.
“I am taking more action to help displaced families and those who lost their lives,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
FEMA says individual assistance can include grants for home repairs and temporary housing, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property damage, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recovering from the effects of a disaster.
Contributors: Lucas Aulbach, Louisville Courier Journal; Related press
Bacon reports from Arlington, Virginia.