'Epic' floods in Kentucky kills at least 16, including 6 children

A car is submerged in flood waters along Right Beaver Creek, following a day of heavy rain in in Garrett, Kentucky, U.S. July 28, 2022. (Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK via REUTERS)

On Friday, the death toll in eastern Kentucky increased to at least 16 as floods caused by "epic" torrential downpour smashed through homes, washed away roads, and drove rivers over their banks, according to state officials, who warned that additional fatalities were inevitable.

Using helicopters and boats, police and National Guard forces, including personnel from neighboring states, rescued dozens of people from homes and vehicles in the Appalachian coal-mining region of Kentucky. Local media footage depicted flooding reaching the rooftops of homes and transforming roadways into rivers.

"It is not yet over. While conducting search and rescue operations, there are still significant dangers present "The governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, addressed a morning press conference.

After a helicopter tour of the hardest-hit districts with the head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, Deanne Criswell, Beshear was astonished at the extent of the flooding.

He said that approximately 100 miles (160 kilometers) southeast of Frankfort, the state capital, the majority of the 2,200-person hamlet of Jackson was inundated.

"Hundreds of homes, their ballfields, their parks, and their businesses," he told reporters, "are under more water than I believe any of us have ever seen in that area." "Just devastating."

The floods represented the second significant national tragedy to strike Kentucky in seven months, following a cluster of almost 80 fatal tornadoes in the state's western region in December.

Beshear stated that the number of confirmed flood-related fatalities grew to 16 on Friday from 15 on Thursday, including at least six children. The death toll will surely rise as floodwaters recede and search teams locate other corpses.

"There's still a lot of people unaccounted for," he stated, declining to specify the figure. "We may be updating the count of how many we lost for the next several weeks."

5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm) of rain fell over the region in 24 hours, a deluge that may prove unique in the region's historical records, according to William Haneberg, professor of environmental sciences and head of the Kentucky Geological Survey.

Haneberg said, "It's a truly epic event,"

Two weeks earlier, rain-caused flash floods overwhelmed the riverbank Appalachian village of Whitewood in southwestern Virginia near the Kentucky border.

Haneberg stated that the rising frequency and intensity of rain-caused floods in the Appalachian region are evidence of human-caused climate change.

In an interview, he stated that they "are going to be more extreme and frequent, but it's hard to predict how extreme and how frequent they will be in the future,"


In Garrett, Kentucky, a coal-mining town 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Lexington, video images showed brown floods swirling through a business strip and backing up against storefronts. People wearing life jackets were transported by rescue boats along the waterlogged street, past the roofs of submerged vehicles.

Rachel Patton, a Garrett resident, wept as she told WCHS-TV, "Everything is gone," "We had to swim out, and the water was chilly. It was beyond my comprehension. It was eerie."

At least 300 people have reportedly been rescued by emergency workers in Kentucky, according to Beshear. Considering that more than 100 individuals have been saved by National Guard airlifts alone, he predicted this figure would undoubtedly increase.

Thursday, authorities went door-to-door in a low-lying section of Jackson, evacuating residents after discovering a leak emanating from the neighboring Panbowl Lake Dam.

"Late last night and early this morning, we thought that a real breach was imminent," Beshear said, adding that officials were somewhat more confident on Friday morning.

According to Poweroutage.us, over 22,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky and 2,200 in West Virginia were without power on Friday afternoon. The governor also reported widespread failures in natural gas service, water treatment, and communication networks.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings and watches throughout the day for the eastern part of Kentucky, northeastern Tennessee, and western West Virginia, where further precipitation was forecast to swell streams already well over flood level.

According to federal monitors, the North Fork Kentucky River near Jackson crested more than 14 feet (4 meters) above the flood stage on Friday morning.

The weather service said that a foot (30 cm) of rain has poured in the region over the past week.

Friday, President Joe Biden declared a severe disaster in Kentucky, authorizing federal aid for the state.

Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia announced a state of emergency for six counties in his state on Thursday after torrential rains triggered floods that affected drinking water systems and obstructed roads.

Publish : 2022-07-30 09:32:00

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