As of Friday night, 25 Kentuckians died (with children among that number) after a historic and devastating series of floods hit several eastern Kentucky counties. The death toll is expected to rise as rescue teams continue to search for survivors.
“This event is devastating, and I believe it will end up being one of the largest and deadliest floods we’ve had in Kentucky in at least a very long time,” Gov. Andy Beshear said during an interview. a press conference Thursday morning. . “There are going to be a lot of people out there who need our help. There will be many people who will be displaced. This is yet another disaster that will take time to rebuild.
An 81-year-old Perry County woman was the first confirmed death. Two more deaths, one in Knott County and another in Perry County, were announced shortly after.
“Unfortunately I expect double digit deaths with these floods. It’s something we rarely see… We’re going to need people to take action to keep them safe, otherwise even the total to which we expect could increase. It’s not just a disaster, it’s an ongoing natural disaster,” Beshear said.
Heavier rains are expected to fall this weekend in areas of Magoffin, Pike, Powell, Wolfe, Johnson, Floyd, Martin, Laurel, Clay and Leslie counties.
“If the water is close to your house, if you’re in a place that regularly floods, or with a lot of rain that could flood, the ground is really saturated,” Beshear said. “If you’re in those areas or even near it, and you can go hang out with someone else tonight, do it. Last night we lost people in the middle of the night and maybe even in their sleep.
The Kentucky State Police has dedicated hotlines for those who may be missing family members in flood prone areas.
To report a missing person in Breathitt, Knott, Letcher, Leslie, or Perry counties, contact their KSP Post 13 at 606-435-6069.
For Magoffin, Johnson, Martin, Floyd, or Pike counties, call KSP Post 9 at 606-433-7711.
For Jackson, Owsley, or Lee counties, contact KSP Post 7 at 859-623-2404.
For Wolfe or Morgan counties, contact KSP Post 8 at 606-784-4127.
For Harlan County, contact KSP Post 10 at 606-573-3131.
The governor asked people to continue to call the lines to report missing persons, even if the lines are busy. It’s a tactic the state learned from the killer tornadoes that ripped through western Kentucky last year.
“What we found with tornadoes was that sometimes we assumed the worst. But then we had the miracle that we prayed for and we were able to report people,” Beshear said.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell was on the ground in Kentucky on Friday afternoon. She observed damage in the area during a helicopter ride through Perry County and the Jackson-Breathitt area with Beshear.
“We have seen many houses that are still flooded, where the water has not receded. We also saw homes that I think will have access issues for a while simply because the roads and bridges are out of order. We know there’s definitely a significant impact on the communities we’ve just flown over,” Criswell said.
“We will be working closely with the Governor’s team to document what we saw today and add additional assistance based on what we just saw in this flight,” Criswell said before addressing at Beshear. “We have urban search and rescue teams already on the ground… We will continue, Governor, to meet all of your life-saving needs and recovery from this truly tragic event in Eastern Kentucky. “
At least 33,000 utility customers were without power. The floods extended to western Virginia and southern West Virginia, in an area where poverty is endemic, according to the Associated Press. The damage estimate and restoration costs will continue to add up over the next few days.
As of Thursday, the Kentucky National Guard currently has four aircraft performing reconnaissance, communications and lifting operations in the affected areas. Some survivors were seen sitting on rooftops or in trees.
Regarding communications with the federal government, Beshear has been in touch with the White House and FEMA, with the director of the latter contacting the governor personally. Beshear said a FEMA response team will be on the ground in Kentucky by Thursday evening. On Friday morning, the governor announced that President Biden had approved Kentucky’s request for a disaster declaration.
Beshear also contacted West Virginia Governor Jim Justice regarding the flooding, the state will send two planes to the Commonwealth to help.
Beshear said the statewide state of emergency will allow the state to bring in additional resources and deploy the National Guard to counties that have not yet declared their own state of emergency. emergency. The declaration also allows the state to request additional assistance from the federal government.
The state has set up a relief fund and is accepting donations online at https://secure.kentucky.gov/FormServices/Finance/EKYFloodRelief.