Kentucky Governor: Death Toll Is 'Going to Get a Lot Higher'

So far, 16 people have died in record flooding
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 29, 2022 10:30 AM CDT
Kentucky Governor: Death Toll Is 'Going to Get a Lot Higher'
Members of the Lexington, Winchester, and Clark County fire departments coordinate efforts to get evacuees across the flooded Troublesome Creek in Jackson, Ky., Thursday, July 28, 2022.   (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Rescue teams searched Friday for people missing in record floods that wiped out entire communities in some of the poorest places in America. Kentucky’s governor said 16 people have died, a toll he predicted will grow as the rain keeps falling. "I expect that number to more than double, probably even throughout today," Gov. Andy Beshear told the AP. "It's going to get a lot higher," he added to CNN. Powerful floodwaters swallowed towns that hug creeks and streams in Appalachian valleys and hollows, swamping homes and businesses, trashing vehicles in useless piles, and crunching runaway equipment and debris against bridges. Mudslides marooned people on steep slopes, and at least 33,000 customers were without power.

Emergency crews made close to 50 air rescues and hundreds of water rescues on Thursday, and more people still needed help. "This is not only an ongoing disaster but an ongoing search and rescue," said the governor, who has deployed the National Guard to the hardest-hit areas. President Biden called to express his support for what will be a lengthy recovery effort, Beshear said, predicting it will take more than a year to fully rebuild. Biden also declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency appointed an officer to coordinate the recovery.

More rain Friday tormented the region after days of torrential rainfall. The storm sent water gushing from hillsides and surging out of streambeds, inundating roads and forcing rescue crews to use helicopters and boats to reach trapped people. Flooding also damaged parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia, across a region where poverty is endemic. The hardest hit areas of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches over a 48-hour period ending Thursday, said Brandon Bonds, meteorologist at the National Weather Service. Some areas got more rain overnight, including Martin County, which was pounded with another 3 inches or so leading to new a flash flood warning on Friday.

(Read more Kentucky stories.)

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