The death toll from last week’s devastating floods in Kentucky rose to 35 Monday as another round of severe storms threatens to bring more rain, high winds and even flash flooding to residents still trying to find their way.
At a news conference Monday morning, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear that five days after the floods started, a minimum of “hundreds” of people remain missing in the state. The death toll is expected to rise as the searches continue this week.
“It’s going to grow,” he said.
More rain, as well as the possibility of isolated flooding and damaging winds, is expected Monday afternoon, Beshear said in a video posted on Twitter. The governor encouraged residents to stay away from flooded areas and take shelter on higher ground.
“Our goal for tonight is for everyone to get to a safe place,” he said. “We don’t want to have to look for people who are safe now.”
Meanwhile, multiple reports of looting in Breathitt County and the nearby town of Hindman, Kentucky, led to nighttime curfews in some communities on Sunday.
This is what we know.
Weather makes recovery and temporary shelter difficult
The latest storm poses a threat from damaging winds and low chances of hail and tornadoes, according to the National Weather Service, and Kentucky is among the states Monday at a small risk of excessive rainfall leading to flash flooding. Trees are expected to fall with gusts of wind due to weakened root systems.
According to the National Weather Service, the area faces another round of showers and thunderstorms Monday night that could linger over southeastern counties all day Tuesday.
Workers are trying to determine which lakes and infrastructure have been damaged, and Beshear said some areas won’t be able to get running water for months.
Beshear also shared his concern about the high temperatures for residents once the storms subside, especially those who haven’t found stable shelter yet.
“People have to be careful and it gets even harder,” Beshear said. “When the rain stops it will get very hot and we have to make sure that the people at that point are finally stable.”
With homes swept away by the flood and school buildings destroyed, many Kentuckians have lost all of their possessions and secure housing. About 150 residents displaced by the floods were temporarily housed in state parks and as of Monday at least the same number are in Red Cross shelters, Beshear said. “We’re just getting to the point where people need a bed.”
Reports of ‘excessive looting’ lead to curfew
As the recovery process progresses, multiple reports of looting in some communities led to nighttime curfews.
A nationwide curfew was imposed on Sunday night in Breathitt County from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.; there were only exceptions for emergency services, first responders and people traveling for work.
“I hate to impose a curfew, but looting is absolutely not tolerated. Our friends and neighbors have lost so much – we cannot stand by and allow them to lose what they have left,” said the Crown Prosecutor Brendon Miller in a Facebook post on Facebook. after.
“Excessive looting” resulted in Hindman, Kentucky, Mayor Tracy Neice imposing a strict curfew on city residents.
“If you take advantage of people in their time of need, you’re sick,” Neice said. “You will not hurt my people. You just don’t.”
In areas where bridges have been damaged or completely swept away, rescuers are trying to troubleshoot to reach people trapped on the other side of rivers and creeks, Beshear said.
Workers are transporting water to those who can’t be reached safely by rescuers, while also focusing on emergency housing, Beshear said. Search and rescue teams are still actively trying to identify and locate the missing.
“I expect we will continue with that in the coming days, although we are certainly working on the emergency housing at the same time,” Beshear said.
Gene. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the US National Guard Bureau, said about 400 people were rescued by a National Guard helicopter on Sunday. He estimated that the guard rescued nearly 20 by boat from hard-to-reach areas.
At least 12,000 people in the region are without power, compared to almost double the number at the start of the floods. Beshear estimates it will cost millions of dollars to restore infrastructure lost in Kentucky’s eastern counties.
The rain returned in fits and starts early Sunday afternoon as search and rescue teams made an important but grim discovery in Perry County, Kentucky.
A body was found and eventually pulled from Troublesome Creek along Kentucky Route 476, south of Ary.
And the crackling radios and quick chat among the emergency services indicated that a second body had moved further up the creek.
Several rescuers soon emerged from a thicket blocking part of the creek and pulled a sled container with a black body bag up the bank.
Water at the door, nowhere to go: a story of one woman’s survival
As roaring floods rose around her, Jessica Willett cut an electrical cord from a vacuum cleaner and tied herself to her two children.
The 34-year-old heard loud pops and creaks as the power of the Flood broke her crafted home on Bowling Creek, a remote and scarp in Kentucky. The floor bowed and the water rushed in. Her car parked outside was swept away.
Huddled with her 3-year-old son Isaiah and 11-year-old daughter Nevaeh in a bedroom, Willett felt the house hit from its foundation. She hoped the mattress would float. And she prayed that being tied up would prevent her children from being dragged alone by a torrent full of trees, metal plates, and cars.
“At least I can try to save them,” she said. “If they find us, they’ll find us together.”
Contributions: The The Bharat Express News; Louisville Courier Journal staff.