Death toll in Kentucky hits 26 amid renewed flood threat
The number of deaths from massive flooding in Kentucky continued to climb on Sunday amid a renewed threat of more heavy rains.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that the death toll had risen by one to 26 from last week’s storms.
Beshear has said the number would likely rise significantly and it could take weeks to find all the victims. As many as 37 people were unaccounted for, according to a daily briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On top of that, more flash flooding was possible in portions of Appalachia on Sunday and Monday as the latest storms roll through, the National Weather Service said. Rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour were possible in some of the same areas that were inundated last week.
A dozen shelters were open for flood victims in Kentucky with 388 occupants on Sunday, according to FEMA.
Beshear said state police were taking calls from worried people who can’t locate loved ones due to spotty cell phone service.
“We still can’t get into some areas to check on people,” Beshear said. “We’re doubling our National Guard. We’re going to work to go door to door, work to find, again, as many people as we can. We’re even going to work through the rain. But the weather is complicating it.”
On an overcast morning in downtown Hindman, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southeast of Louisville, a crew cleared debris piled along storefronts. Nearby, a vehicle was perched upside down in Troublesome Creek, now back within its debris-littered banks.
With the threat of more rain, workers toiled nonstop through mud-caked sidewalks and roads.
“We’re going to be here unless there’s a deluge,” said Tom Jackson, who is among the workers.
Jackson was with a crew from Corbin, Kentucky, where he’s the city’s recycling director, about a two-hour drive from Hindman.
His crew worked all day Saturday, and the mud and debris were so thick that they managed to clear one-eighth of a mile of roadway. The water had rushed off the hillsides had so much force that it bent road signs.
“I’ve never seen water like this,” Jackson said.
In Knott County, Teresa Perry Reynolds’ home was inundated with water and mud. She and her husband would have taken refuge in their 44-foot travel trailer, but it was swamped by the floodwater.
“I have the clothes on my back,” she said Saturday when asked what they could salvage.
They found her husband’s wallet after searching a day and a half. It was left behind as they escaped the fast-rising water Thursday and went to a neighbor’s house. A team of volunteers hauled debris out of her house Saturday.
She and her husband are staying with friends. She’s a retired teacher and her husband is a retired school administrator.
“All I know is I’m homeless and I’ve got people taking care of me,” she said.
The rain let up early Friday after parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) over 48 hours. About 13,000 utility customers in Kentucky remained without power Sunday, poweroutage.us reported.
President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties.
Last week’s flooding extended to West Virginia, where Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six southern counties, and to Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin also made an emergency declaration that enabled officials to mobilize resources across the flooded southwest portion of the state.
Associated Press writer John Raby contributed to this report from Charleston, West Virginia.