Kentucky deadly flood: Death toll rises to 26 as region remains in search and rescue mode after fatal flood

JACKSON, Kentucky– More rain threatens eastern Kentucky on Sunday, including some areas hardest hit by the deadly floods that killed at least 26 people and caused rescue workers to sweep the region for the missing.

“The prediction is worrying and we are of course monitoring it very closely. We’re also sending out alerts and making sure everyone knows,” said Col. Jeremy Slinker, Kentucky’s emergency management director.

“We’re preparing for this and making sure all residents are prepared for this because we just don’t want to lose anyone or see more tragedy,” he told CNN’s Pamela Brown on Saturday.

Flood monitoring is in effect for parts of southern and eastern Kentucky through at least Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service, and there is a moderate Level 3 out of 4 risk of excessive rain Sunday in southeastern Kentucky, according to the Weather Prediction Center. Escalation of fears of further flooding.

“The risk of flash flooding will gradually increase as showers and thunderstorms develop today with very heavy precipitation rates and extend coverage,” the center said, considering the region’s atmospheric conditions “tropical,” meaning it’s warm. moist and can absorb an incredible amount of water.

SEE ALSO: Kentucky flood death toll rises to 25, ‘likely to increase,’ governor says

Widespread precipitation totals of 1 to 3 inches are forecast for the next 24 to 48 hours, but as much as 4 or 5 inches is possible in localized areas. As little as 1 to 2 inches can revive flooding problems, especially in areas that have already been flooded by heavy rain and the soil is saturated.

The ominous prediction comes as crews in eastern Kentucky continue their search for people missing after last Thursday’s devastating floods that submerged homes and swept some from their foundations, causing residents to flee to higher ground.

Twenty-six people have been confirmed dead, Gov. Andy Beshear said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, in what officials are calling unprecedented flooding for the area — and the death toll is expected to rise as crews are currently gaining access to more impassable areas.

“This is one of the most devastating deadly floods we’ve seen in our history,” Beshear said. “It initially wiped out areas where people didn’t have as much.”

“Our death toll currently stands at 26,” he added. “But I know of several additional bodies and we know they will grow with the water level. We’ll be finding bodies for weeks, many of them were hundreds of yards away, maybe a quarter mile plus from where they were last.”

Some areas remain unreachable, the governor says

Officials believe thousands have been affected and efforts to rebuild some areas could take years, the governor told CNN on Saturday. The state’s estimated losses may be in the “tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars.”

Excessive heat is expected to build over the region after the rain on Tuesday as many people are currently struggling without access to safe drinking water, power outages and cellular service, which are still unavailable in some counties as of Sunday.

“We have several Kentucky State Police stations that take calls from loved ones who can’t connect to those they are concerned about,” the governor told NBC on Sunday. “But it will take some time before we get a firm grip on that. We still can’t get into some areas to screen people.”

More than 10,000 homes and businesses in the area were left in the dark early Sunday, according to; Three drinking water systems were completely out of service as of Saturday, the governor said, and residents had no access to water or only access to water that had to be boiled before it was safe to consume.

The federal government has sent semi-trailers to the region with bottled water, and more financial support is on the way.

Flooding – like other recent weather disasters – has been further exacerbated by the climate crisis: as global temperatures rise as a result of man-made emissions from fossil fuels, the atmosphere can store more water, making water vapor more readily available than rain falls.

Scientists are increasingly confident in the role the climate crisis is playing in extreme weather, and have warned that with every fraction of a degree of warming, such events will become more intense and dangerous.

Libby Duty, 64, of Jenkins, Kentucky, walked through her backyard Saturday while cleaning out her basement after historic rains flooded many areas in eastern Kentucky.

With so many people in need of help after losing everything, officials were quick to approve the financial assistance.

The federal government gave the green light to funding people in five counties “at a pace we’ve never seen before,” said Jacqueline Coleman, Lt. gov. of Kentucky, to CNN’s Pamela Brown on Saturday.

“Residents will actually receive direct payments, which is really good news down a very long tunnel to see the light,” Coleman said.

SEE ALSO: At least 16 dead in eastern Kentucky floods, says Gov. Andy Beshear

Coleman didn’t give an exact date when those payments are expected to reach residents, though she said they will be distributed once the state receives the money.

Nearly $700,000 has been raised for relief efforts, Beshear said Saturday, noting that it will pay for funeral expenses for those killed in the floods.

Additionally, the state is prioritizing the placement of generators in emergency shelters for flood survivors as temperatures are expected to rise Tuesday after the rain.


Teresa Reynolds sits wearily as members of her congregation clear the debris of their flood-ravaged homes at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Kentucky on Saturday, July 30.

“Hero” saved family from flooded house

Among the heroic stories emerging from the disaster is an unidentified man who drifted through fast-moving water to retrieve a 98-year-old grandmother, her grandson and another family member from their home as flooding on Thursday nearly broke it was swallowed .

Randy Polly, who witnessed the rescue in Whitesburg, Kentucky, and recorded parts of it on his cellphone, told CNN he got stuck some distance from the house on his way to get gas on Thursday morning.

Polly said he heard people shouting across the flooded street, “Get me help, get help.” He called 911, but first responders were overwhelmed and didn’t respond to his calls.

At around 9:00 a.m., he saw a man he described as a hero drift towards the house and began banging on the door and window.

The man eventually helped get three people out of the house and led them through rushing water, the videos show. The rescue took about 30 minutes, Polly said.

Missy Crovetti, who lives in Green Oaks, Illinois, told CNN the people rescued in the video were her grandmother Mae Amburgey, uncle Larry Amburgey and brother Gregory Amburgey. They are safe and doing well, she said.

Crovetti said she doesn’t know the name of the man who saved her family. Polly also said he didn’t know the man’s name.

The CNN Wire

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