Kentucky governor: Flood death toll rises to 25 | Science and Technology

By Dylan Lowan and Bruce Schreiner – The Associated Press

Prestenberg, Q. (AP) – At least 25 people died – including four children – when torrential rains lashed towns in Appalachia, Kentucky’s governor said Saturday.

“We continue to pray for the families who have suffered an immeasurable loss,” said Governor Andy Beshear. “Some have lost almost everyone in their home.”

Beshear said the numbers were likely to rise significantly and it could take weeks to find all the victims of the record floods. Rescuers continue to struggle to get to inaccessible areas, some of them among the poorest places in America.

“I’m worried we’ll be finding bodies for weeks to come,” Beshear said during an afternoon briefing.

He said it was still an active search and rescue operation with the goal of evacuating as many people as possible. The governor said the crew has rescued more than 1,200 people with helicopters and boats.

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Beshear, who flew over parts of the flooded area on Friday, described it as “just total devastation the likes of which we have never seen”.

“We are committed to a complete rebuilding effort to get these people back on their feet,” Beshear said. “But for now, we’re just praying we don’t lose anyone else.”

Parts of eastern Kentucky received rain early Friday after receiving between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 cm) of rain in 48 hours. But some waterways were not expected to reach the summit until Saturday.

Flood-soaked sofas, tables and pillows were piled into yards along the foothills of a mountainous area on Saturday in the small community of Garrett as people worked to clear debris and shovel soil from driveways and roads.

In nearby Wayland, Philip Michael Caudill was working to clear debris and rescues from the home he shared with his wife and three children. The water had receded from the house, but he and his family were left a mess with questions about what to do next.

“We’re just hoping we can get some help,” said Caudill, who is staying with his family in a free room at Jenny Wiley State Park, for now.

Caudill, a firefighter in the Garrett community, came out to rescue around 1 a.m. on Thursday, but was asked to leave at about 3 a.m. so he could go home, where the water was rising rapidly.

“That’s why it became so difficult for me,” he said. “Here I am sitting, watching my house submerged in water and begging you guys for help. And I couldn’t help it,” as he was taking care of his family.

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When he reached home, the water was up to his knees and he had to cross the yard and carry his two children to the car. He could barely close the door of his SUV as they were leaving.

Patricia Colombo, 63, of Hazard, Kentucky, was trapped when her car stalled in floodwaters on a state highway. Colombo panicked when the water started to seep in. Although his phone was dead, he saw a helicopter above and waved it down. The helicopter crew radioed a ground team who rescued him.

Colombo stayed the night at his fiancée’s house in Jackson and they slept alternately, repeatedly checking the water with a flashlight to see if it was moving. Although there was damage to his car, Colombo said for others it was worse in an area where poverty is endemic.

“Many of these people cannot recover from here. They have houses that are half underwater, they have lost everything,” she said.

It is the latest in a series of devastating floods that have ravaged parts of the US this summer, including in St. Louis earlier this week and again on Friday. Scientists warn that climate change is making weather disasters more common.

As it rained in Appalachia this week, water trickled down hills and into valleys and hollows, where it flowed into creeks and streams that flowed through small towns. Dhar engulfed homes and businesses and crushed vehicles. Mudslides put some people on the steep slopes.

President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to send relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties.

Floyd County Judge-Executive Robbie Williams said floodwaters in Appalachia were so strong that some people trapped in their homes could not be reached immediately.

To the west in hard-hit Perry County, officials said some people remained unaccounted for and nearly everyone in the area suffered some sort of damage.

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“We still have a lot of exploration to do,” said Jerry Stacy, the county’s director of emergency management.

Flooding spread to western Virginia and southern West Virginia.

Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in West Virginia, where flooding downed trees, power outages and blocked roads. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also declared an emergency, allowing officials to mobilize resources from floods in the state’s southwest.

Parts of some state roads in Kentucky were blocked by flooding or landslides. Rescue teams in Virginia and West Virginia worked to reach people where roads were not walkable.

poweroutage.us reported that nearly 18,000 utility customers in Kentucky were without power early Saturday.

Two days after record rain around St. Louis, flooding fell more than 12 inches (31 cm) and killed at least two people. Last month, heavy rain on mountain snow in Yellowstone National Park caused historic flooding and the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. In both cases, the flood of rain was much higher than the forecasters predicted.

According to scientists, extreme rain events have become more common as climate change affects the planet and alters weather patterns. This is an increasing challenge for officials during disasters, as the models used to predict hurricane impacts are based on past events and cannot keep up with increasingly destructive flash floods and heat waves. which have recently arrived in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains.

“It’s a battle of extremes going on in the United States right now,” said University of Oklahoma meteorologist Jason Furtado. “These are things that we expect to happen because of climate change. … A warmer atmosphere has more water vapor and that means you can have increased heavy rainfall.”

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