July 29 (UPI) — Devastating flooding in Kentucky has killed at least 16 people as emergency crews scrambled Friday to reach others threatened by the rising waters, which have washed away homes and roads over the past couple days.
Heavy rains slammed eastern Kentucky on Wednesday night and continued into Thursday as some families took refuge on their rooftops — if their homes were standing at all.
Jimmy Pollard of the Kentucky Coroners Association said the death toll has risen to 16 across four counties, but none were immediately identified.
The storms produced more than 10 inches over a 24-hour period in the hardest-hit areas and came only days after flooding inundated the Greater St. Louis area.
The National Weather Service said Friday that the North Fork Kentucky River in Jackson had reached its greatest height ever — more than 43.47 feet. That broke the old height record of 43.1 feet, set in 1939.
Over the past 72 hours, the bulk of the rain has been isolated to southeastern Kentucky. More than 8 inches has fallen in Breathitt, Perry, Owsley, Knott, Clay and Letcher counties.
A flood watch remains in effect through Friday night for most of the region.
“Whole roads washed out — we still can’t get to a lot of people,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told CNN. “There is so much water. The current is so strong. It is not safe for some of the water rescues that we need to do. [Houses were] completely swept away in the middle of the night.”
Beshear said that seven counties were affected by the flooding and rainfall and Kentucky activated its National Guard to use helicopters and trucks to take residents to safety. Additional aircraft were sent from Tennessee and West Virginia to assist.
The governor has said that property damage from the floods will be extensive, and he’s opened an online portal for donations that would go to affected Kentuckians.
President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for the state on Friday, which will allow Kentucky to access federal aid for recovery efforts.