Kentucky Flooding: At least 16 dead in catastrophic floods in eastern part of state, Governor Andy Beshear says

KENTUCKY– At least 16 people have died after catastrophic flooding hit Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday. That number is expected to double and include children, he previously told CNN, as rescuers scramble to reach hard-to-reach areas.

“It’s going to be a lot higher,” Beshear said at a news conference Friday morning.

“There will be several families that we’ve lost,” Beshear previously told Brianna Keilar on CNN’s New Day. “Kids who don’t get the opportunity to grow up and experience as much as we do.”

“This is so deadly, and it hit so hard, and it hit in the middle of the night,” the governor said, adding that although eastern Kentucky floods often, “we’ve never seen anything like it.”

Rescue workers are working around the clock to reach areas where floods have washed away roads or left them submerged after heavy rains from Wednesday night into Thursday.

Live updates: Deadly floods in eastern Kentucky

“Whole streets have been washed out – we still can’t reach many people. There is so much water. The current is so strong. It’s not safe for some of the water rescues that we have to do,” Beshear said.

Swollen floodwaters washed out bridges, knocked out electricity, and sent some residents onto their rooftops as water poured into their homes. The homes and cars of some families were submerged or completely swept away by the floods, which were made worse by streams and soil already soaked by sustained rains.

Homes were “completely swept away in the middle of the night,” possibly while residents were sleeping, Beshear said.

Hundreds of Kentuckians have lost everything they have, the governor said.

Mayor of Hazard, Kentucky: “It’s devastating”

People in the southeastern Kentucky city of Hazard are “so overwhelmed that we don’t really know what to ask,” Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini told CNN on Friday morning.

“In downtown Hazard we don’t really have a lot of property damage here. But in the outskirts it’s devastating,” Mobelini said.

Some homes that had stood for 50 or even 75 years without water ever coming near them were flooded, he said.

Seven of the city’s nine bridges are impassable, and “this is unheard of,” the mayor said.

The city is bracing for news of more deaths, he said.

“Today is the sad day,” said Mobelini. “It’s all sad … but this is the first time I remember there’s been a loss of life and at this point we don’t know what that looks like.”

More rain expected

Beshear warned Thursday that the devastation is far from over as more rain is expected on Friday. Eastern Kentucky is at a mild to moderate risk of flash flooding through Friday night as an additional 1 to 3 inches is possible throughout the day, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

And in the Jackson, Kentucky, region, downstream of the hardest-hit flood plains, “creeks continue to rise due to excessive runoff from previous rains,” the National Weather Service office there said Friday.

An elderly man and woman died after being swept from their homes in Oneida Community near Manchester, Kentucky, according to Clay County Coroner Jarrod Becknell. The man was 76 and the woman in her late 60s or early 70s, Assistant Medical Examiner Joe Crockett said.

It’s not clear if the two deaths are included in the nationwide toll announced by Beshear.

On Thursday evening, Kentucky officials recommended people evacuate homes and businesses in the floodplain of Panbowl Lake in Jackson, citing the Kentucky River’s rising water level and a “muddy drain” seen near the lake’s dam was. A portion of Kentucky Route 15 was also closed Thursday night.

Parts of West Virginia and West Virginia also experienced severe flooding on Thursday and are expected to receive more rain on Friday. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin issued a statewide emergency declaration and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared states of emergency for Fayette, Greenbrier, Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties, according to press releases from the governor’s offices.

Much of West Virginia is at moderate risk of flash flooding Friday, according to the Weather Prediction Center. The southwestern region of Virginia is also at risk of flooding, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia, on Friday, with between one and two inches of rain possible and possibly more in some local areas.

At a White House briefing Thursday, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will travel to Kentucky on Friday to survey the damage and report to President Joe Biden.

FEMA has also dispatched emergency responders and an incident management support team to assist the state’s rescue efforts, she said.

Beshear sent a direct request to Biden asking for federal aid to eastern Kentucky, the governor said in a tweet.

Rescues hampered by widespread water and power outages

When the flood waters reached dangerous levels, some Kentuckians quickly became trapped and were unable to escape safely. Hundreds of boat rescues and 50 air rescues have been carried out, Beshear said Friday.

National Guards from several states are supporting the rescue effort, he said.

About 80 people have been rescued in Floyd County since heavy rains began in the area on Tuesday, the county’s chief judge, Robbie Williams, told CNN.

“I’ve never seen so much water,” Williams said. “I mean, it’s just been pouring and we’ve got, you know, some little towns that are completely flooded.”

Widespread water and power outages in the area are hampering recovery efforts, Beshear said Thursday. He noted that the flooding is making it difficult for utility workers to reach areas needed to restore power.

More than 23,000 customers across the state were without power as of early Friday, according to

The state also has a limited number of helicopters that can airlift people, the governor said. To aid in the state’s recovery efforts, both West Virginia and Tennessee sent helicopters with lifting capabilities to Kentucky.

West Virginia has also deployed National Guard troops to help its neighboring state, Governor Justice announced.

Communities also took action to help their neighbors, including residents of the town of Whitesburg.

“We took kayaks, jet skis, boats, chainsaws and hatchets everywhere we could,” resident Zach Caudill told CNN. Caudill’s home suffered just inches from flooding, but he said several of his neighbors lost their homes entirely.

Caudill snatched bandages, gauze, medicine, menstrual supplies, food, water and blankets from his home to bring to others, he said.

“Everyone was there and tried to lend a hand and help. That’s how close our community has grown together,” said Caudill. “When one of us hurts, we all hurt.”

The Kentucky State Police are asking residents in at least eight counties to call them if they are missing family members and provide information about their loved ones. Counties include Wolfe, Owsley, Breathitt, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Pike and Perry.

The climate crisis is leading to more intense flooding

Kentucky was one of several states, including Missouri and Arizona, to experience severe flooding on Thursday amid increasingly extreme weather events exacerbated by the climate crisis.

In St. Louis, record-breaking rains earlier in the week triggered dangerous flash flooding that lasted for days and killed at least one person.

As global temperatures rise, the atmosphere can hold more and more water, making water vapor available in greater quantities to fall as rain.

According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), precipitation over land has become more intense since the 1980s. The report’s authors say human influence is the key driver.

Man-made emissions from fossil fuels have warmed the planet by an average of just over 1 degree Celsius, with warming in land areas being even more intense. Increasingly confident in the role the climate crisis plays in extreme weather, scientists have warned that these events will become more intense and dangerous with every fraction of warming.

The CNN Wire & 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved. Kentucky Flooding: At least 16 dead in catastrophic floods in eastern part of state, Governor Andy Beshear says

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