The death toll from devastating flooding in rural Kentucky has risen to 30 people, authorities have confirmed, as searches for the missing continued.
“We expect that there will be more and that that number will grow,” Kentucky’s Governor Andy Beshear said on Sunday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that 37 people remained unaccounted for.
Flash flooding was expected to return on Monday in southern and eastern Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
Rainfall of 1-2 inches is expected on Monday morning with 3 inches possible in localized areas.
Strong to severe thunderstorms are possible from the Missouri Valley through the Ohio Valley, with heavy rain and flooding likely again in portions of the southern and central Appalachians, according to national forecasts.
Colonel. Jeremy Slinker, Kentucky’s emergency management director, told CNN that “the forecast is concerning”, and that they were watching it very closely. “We also are sending out warnings and making sure everyone knows,” he said.
Governor Beshear called the crisis “one of the most devastating deadly floods that we have seen in our history”.
“We are going to be finding bodies for weeks, many of them swept hundreds of yards, maybe a quarter-mile plus from where they were last,” he told NBC News.
Last week, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that four siblings, all under eight years old, had been killed during floods in Knott County.
Hundreds of homes have been submerged by flooding and some have been lifted clean from foundations by the surging waters.
More than 14,500 people in Kentucky are currently without power, according to a national tracker. Jeffrey Noble, the judge-executive in Breathitt County, said the disaster had knocked out phone service for miles and that main roads in Jackson, the county seat, remained blocked.
President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster in response to the floods on Friday, opening up more resources for emergency services and first responders.
Although it is difficult to attribute a single weather event to the climate crisis, a recent study found that flash flooding was likely to become more common – and “flashier” - in the US due to global heating.
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