At least three people were killed on Thursday after heavy rains caused massive flooding in eastern Kentucky, leaving people on rooftops and others without power or water as forecasts add further rain.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he expects deaths to rise to double digits, calling it one of “the worst, most devastating floods” in state history. He said the storms forecast Thursday evening and over the weekend mean the impact could worsen, potentially hampering rescue efforts as well as work to restore power and water.
“This isn’t just a disaster, it’s an ongoing natural disaster,” Beshear said.
Beshear declared a state of emergency for all of Kentucky and the National Guard has been mobilized.
“We probably haven’t seen the worst of it yet,” Beshear said. “Unfortunately, we believe we will lose Kentuckians and many Kentuckians will probably lose most of what they have.”
Gene. Hal Lamberton of the Kentucky National Guard said crews were working to rescue people stranded on the roofs of houses. Staff at a school were also stranded, he said.
More than 6 inches of rain fell on Thursday morning, flooding the streets. Several inches were expected Friday, and National Weather Service forecasters warned that heavy rain and flooding could continue through the weekend.
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Beshear advised people to stay somewhere safe, whether that be with family in a non-flood zone or in a hotel.
In Perry County, 20 people were missing early Thursday, Deputy Sheriff Scott Sandlin said. The region had been hit by major flooding, with several bridges and roads covered in water and other structures destroyed, he said.
An 81-year-old Perry County woman was among those killed in the floods, Beshear said. He said two others, one from Perry County and one from Knott County, also died. Additional information was not readily available.
“Guys, I don’t know how much rain Buckhorn can handle,” Marlene Abner Stokely said in a video she posted to Facebook, showing Squabble Creek overflowing and submerging a historic church in Kentucky. “You can see it’s pretty much taken over.”
In Breathitt County in eastern Kentucky, roads were flooded and homes and businesses were flooded. A volunteer firefighters had to evacuate the flooded barracks, authorities said.
The governor warned motorists not to drive in the water. He said crews were investigating reports of a large truck with two people in it that may have been wiped out.
“I don’t want to lose anyone else,” Beshear said.
Several residents and news organizations posted photos and videos to social media early Thursday showing water taking over the streets in Buckhorn, Breathitt and Perry counties. Chris Bailey, WKYT’s chief meteorologist, described it as “one of the worst flash floods to ever hit the state.”
Dustin Jordan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Jackson, said at least 6.82 inches of rain fell in Knott County, 7 inches in Perry County and about 7 inches in Breathitt County in the past two days.
At least 1 to 2 inches of rain was expected south of Interstate 64 between Thursday night and Friday, he said. Flash flooding was possible in some areas, forecasts show.
Meteorologists say rain is expected all weekend and even next week, possibly leading to more flooding.
Beshear said more than 25,000 homes and businesses were without power on Thursday afternoon. An emergency fund has been set up to help those affected.
Contributions: The Bharat Express News