Governor confirms 8 deaths in devastating Kentucky flooding
(WKYT/WSAZ/Gray News) - The death toll continues to rise in connection with the devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky.
Gov. Andy Beshear confirmed to WKYT that there are eight deaths.
WKYT reports two deaths were in Perry County, one in Knott County, and one in Clay County. WKYT hasn’t yet confirmed the locations of the other four deaths.
Beshear said there are a number of people who are also unaccounted for. He expects the death toll to reach double digits.
Beshear has declared a state of emergency for the communities impacted and activated the National Guard.
The governor said 30 people have been airlifted out of flooded areas so far, and that number is growing.
Beshear called it one of the “worst and most devastating flooding events” in the state’s history, saying hundreds of homes had been damaged or destroyed so far, per WKYT.
“The situation is dynamic and ongoing,” Beshear said. “In most places, we are not seeing receding water. In fact, in most places, it is not crested yet.”
In Knott County, the coroner confirmed two deaths in the region with multiple people still missing, WSAZ reported.
“Hundreds will lose their homes, and this is going to be yet another event that it’s going to take not months but likely years for many families to rebuild and recover from,” the governor said.
Poweroutage.us reported more than 31,000 customers without electricity in eastern Kentucky, as well as affected areas in West Virginia and Virginia dealing with flash flooding and mudslides. Thunderstorms dumped several inches of water over the past few days.
Water service has been disrupted as well in some areas. Beshear said Kentucky has already ordered truckloads of water to assist.
Floyd County Sheriff John Hunt said many in his area are trapped by floodwaters and urged people in areas that may see more flooding to get out now.
“We had to rescue some on floating debris – a house door. We had to put a lady on a house door that would float,” Hunt said. “We are using all resources, anything that we have available to rescue these people.”
Rescue workers worked through the night and have plucked people off rooftops amid fast-rising water. Perry County Emergency Management Director Jerry Stacy described the situation as “catastrophic” as crews searched for stranded people.
“There are a lot of people in eastern Kentucky on top of roofs waiting to be rescued,” the governor added.
The storms hit an Appalachian mountain region where communities and homes are built on steep hillsides or down in the hollows between them, where the only flat land often shoulders creeks and streams that can rise in a hurry.
Roads in many areas weren’t passable after as much as 6 inches of rain had fallen in some areas by Thursday, and 1-3 more inches could fall, the National Weather Service said.
Three parks in the region were opened as shelters for displaced people.
In Kentucky’s Perry, Leslie and Clay counties, people in low areas were urged to seek higher ground after multiple swift water rescues. Breathitt County’s courthouse was opened overnight, and Emergency Management Director Chris Friley said the Old Montessori School would provide more permanent shelter once crews can staff it.
“It’s the worst we’ve had in quite a while,” Friley said. “It’s county-wide again. There’s several spots that are still not accessible to rescue crews.”
Perry County dispatchers said floodwaters washed out roads and bridges and knocked homes off foundations. The city of Hazard said rescue crews were out all night, urging people on Facebook to stay off roads and “pray for a break in the rain.”
Rescues were being done in West Virginia, and communities in southwest Virginia also were flooding. The National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Virginia, warned of more showers and storms on Thursday.
In Buchanan County, which was hit by severe flooding two weeks ago, preliminary assessments of the previous flooding were postponed for safety amid the latest high water, according to Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesperson Lauren Opett. Officials were determining whether its feasible to conduct the assessments virtually, she said.
And in Wise County, the Office of Emergency Management warned of imminent flooding and road closures in the Pound Bottom area on Thursday morning. Officials advised residents to shelter in place until floodwaters recede or evacuate to a shelter in an elementary school.
Copyright 2022 WKYT and WSAZ via Gray Media Group, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to the report. All rights reserved.