By BRUCE SCHREINER and JOHN RABY
HINDMAN, Ky. (AP) — The death toll from massive flooding in Kentucky rose to 26 on Sunday and several dozen people are still missing amid the threat of heavy rain.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll rose by one since Saturday after last week’s storms.
Beshear said the number would likely increase significantly and it could take weeks to find all the victims. As many as 37 people were missing, according to a daily briefing from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
On top of that, more flash flooding was possible in parts of Appalachia on Sunday and Monday as the latest storms rolled in, the National Weather Service said. Rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour were possible in some of the same areas that were flooded last week.
A dozen shelters were open for flood victims in Kentucky with 388 occupants Sunday, according to FEMA.
At a press conference in Knott County, Beshear welcomed the rapid arrival of FEMA trailers, but noted many challenges in the recovery, including the threat of more rain and flooding and infrastructure damage. essential.
“We have dozens of bridges that are out of order, making it difficult for people to get to it, making it difficult to get water,” he said. “We have entire water systems that we are working hard to raise.”
Beshear said it will remain difficult, even a week from now, “to have a solid number on those counted.” It’s communication issues – it’s also not necessarily, in some of these areas, having an accurate number of how many people lived there in the first place.
The governor also spoke of the selflessness he saw among Kentucky residents suffering from the floods.
“A lot of people who have lost everything, but they’re not even getting property for themselves, they’re getting property for other people in their neighborhood, making sure their neighbors are okay,” Beshear said.
Among the survival stories that continue to emerge, a 17-year-old girl whose home in Whitesburg was flooded on Thursday put her dog in a plastic container and swam 70 yards to safety on the roof of a neighbour. Chloe Adams waited for hours until daylight before a parent in a kayak arrived and got them to safety, taking first her dog, Sandy, then the teenager.
“My daughter is safe and whole tonight,” her father, Terry Adams, said in a Facebook post. “We lost everything today…everything but what matters most.”
On a cloudy morning in downtown Hindman, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southeast of Louisville, a crew cleared debris piled up along storefronts. Nearby, a vehicle was perched upside down in Troublesome Creek, now back in its debris-strewn banks.
Workers worked non-stop on mud-covered sidewalks and roads.
“We’re going to be here unless there’s a deluge,” said Tom Jackson, one of the workers.
Jackson was with a team from Corbin, Kentucky, where he is the city’s recycling manager, about a two-hour drive from Hindman.
His crew worked all day Saturday, and the mud and debris was so thick they managed to clear an eighth of a mile of pavement. The water had rushed over the hillsides with such force that it bent the road signs.
“I’ve never seen water like this,” Jackson said.
Attendance was down for the Sunday morning service at Hindman First Baptist Church. Parishioners who rarely miss a service were instead back home to take care of clean-up chores caused by floodwaters and mud.
“We’ve already had all kinds of people let us know that they couldn’t even be here today because of their circumstances,” Reverend Mike Caudill said.
His church stepped in to help the shocked community, serving meals and setting up tents for people to pick up cleaning and personal hygiene supplies.
In Knott County, where it was raining intermittently on Sunday, bins full of clothes and photos were piled on retired teacher Teresa Perry Reynolds’ porch, along with furniture too damaged to salvage.
“There are memories there,” she said of the family photos she and her husband were able to find.
She and her husband, a retired school administrator, reportedly took refuge in their 44-foot trailer, but it was inundated by floodwaters. They found her husband’s wallet after a day and a half of searching. He was left behind as they escaped rapidly rising waters on Thursday and drove to a neighbour’s house.
“All I know is that I’m homeless and people are taking care of me,” she said.
The rain stopped early Friday after parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20-27 centimeters) in 48 hours. About 13,000 Kentucky utility customers were left without power on Sunday, poweroutage.us reported.
President Joe Biden has declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen counties in Kentucky.
Last week’s flooding spread to West Virginia, where Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six southern counties, and Virginia, where Governor Glenn Youngkin also issued an emergency declaration. emergency that allowed officials to mobilize resources in the flooded southwestern part of the state.
Raby reported from Charleston, West Virginia. Associated Press writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.