Gov. Andy Beshear said deaths should be reported and hundreds of Commonwealth families likely lost their homes as devastating flash floods swept across eastern Kentucky overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning.
At a 9:30 a.m. Thursday press briefing, Beshear said the region had “a tough night, and maybe an even tougher morning,” with more rain in the forecast later in the day. The governor declared a state of emergency, he said, as streets and homes in several area counties were flooded after rain hit the eastern part of the state overnight.
A flood warning was in effect for several eastern Kentucky counties until 3 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson. More than six inches of rain fell overnight across much of the region, a department meteorologist said.
The National Guard has been mobilized, according to Major General Hal Lamberton and Beshear. The situation is “dynamic” and developing, the governor said, but significant property damage is expected and hundreds of families are expected to be relocated.
“This will be yet another event that will take not months but probably years for many families to rebuild and recover,” Beshear said.
In Perry County alone, according to Deputy Sheriff Scott Sandlin, 20 people were missing early Thursday morning. The area has been hit by major flooding, he said, with several bridges and roads covered in water and other structures destroyed.
Resources for families
Three state parks — Pine Mountain, Buckhorn Lake and Jennie Wiley — have been opened for people who have lost their homes, Beshear said, “because a lot of people are either going to lose their homes completely or not be habitable for some times.”
Shelters are also open at the Breathitt County Courthouse at 1137 Main Street and Hazard’s First Presbyterian Church at 160 Broadway Street, Beshear said.
More than 23,000 people were without power when Beshear spoke at 9.30am. This figure was still accurate at 11 a.m. according to poweroutage.usthat tracks outages across the country.
How Much Rain Has Fallen in Eastern Kentucky?
Dustin Jordan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Jackson, said Clark Creek in Knott County saw 6.82 inches of rain in the past two days, including 6.23 in the past 24 hours. Perry County had seen 7 inches of rain in the past two days, he said, and the city of Prestonsburg in Floyd County had received 1.67 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, but had seen more rainfall in the days before the floods. About 4.7 inches of rain also fell over a 24-hour period in Breathitt County, he said.
The Jackson National Weather Service office is located in Breathitt County — employees currently cannot access it, Jordan said, because roads near the facility are covered in water. Beshear said he was also aware of several people trapped at a school in the area.
He also said at least 1 to 2 inches of rain can be expected between Thursday evening and Friday south of Interstate 64.
Heavy rains that fell earlier in the week in this region had already caused flooding, several social media users noted. Photos and videos taken by area residents were shared everywhere Thursday morning as many in the state woke up to devastation.
What happens next
Beshear said he plans to hold a press briefing at 12:30 p.m. to offer additional updates on the flooding.
In the meantime, he said, rescue efforts are underway to help those who are trapped in the school, and the National Guard has stepped up to support others in the area.
This story will be updated.