Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued a state of emergency Thursday following flooding in eastern Kentucky. He said he expects massive property damage and reported eight confirmed deaths. Several local governments have issued emergency declarations. “It has been a tough night and maybe an even tougher morning for so many of our residents,” Beshear said. “We are currently experiencing one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history.”
The governor said officials are still awaiting word on two people in a large truck that may have been swept away by flood waters. He stressed the importance of not driving or walking in flood waters and said people need to respect barricades. Beshear said the death toll could reach double digits. More rain is expected in the area with the potential for 2 to 3 inches overnight.
More than 25,000 people are without power. Three Kentucky state parks are open for people who have lost their homes. Rooms are available at Jenny Wiley, Buckhorn, and Pine Mountain state parks, despite the facilities having issues. “You may show up to them, and we don’t have electricity,” the governor warned. However, he promised a room would be made available. “We will do our best to take care of you as we get everything up online.”
Many areas are facing temporary water issues as several utility systems experience outages. Anyone in the affected areas should boil water before using it. Bottled water is also arriving for people in the affected areas.
“The devastation we are seeing in our eastern Kentucky region is heart-wrenching,” said State Rep. John Blanton (R-Salyersville). “I urge everyone in the flood zones to follow recommendations from state and local officials and take necessary measures to stay safe. I will continue to work with local and federal leaders to get aid to our region as quickly as possible.”
“My heart goes out to every family in eastern Kentucky who has been affected by the severe storms and flash flooding,” Sen. Philip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) said. “In addition to seeing the effects first-hand in Pike County, I have followed the damage reports on social media and spoken to several friends from throughout the 31st Senate district, some of whom are homeless and have lost most of their belongings. I am asking for all Kentuckians to keep these folks in their thoughts and prayers.”
Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) said many roads throughout the region are impassable. “We will continue to update the state and federal agencies of our needs and will keep you updated as we begin to assess the damage and clean up,” Smith said.
The governor said he has spoken with representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the White House. A FEMA response team should be in the area by nightfall. Kentucky Air National Guard (KANG) members are actively searching for people who need to be rescued. Beshear said people are on the roofs of homes and in trees. KANG has a limited number of aircraft with hoisting capabilities. The state of West Virginia and the West Virginia National Guard are sending two helicopters to assist in rescue efforts.
Kentucky State Police (KSP) is searching for people in the affected areas, but flooding is creating challenges. Rescue crews are bringing in boats to assist in the rescue efforts. Anyone in the area with missing family members can call KSP Post 13 in Hazard at 606-435-6069. The areas are experiencing cellular phone outages, but AT&T and Verizon are working to restore service as soon as possible.
Kentucky established a Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund to help flood victims. People can donate at teamekyfloodrelieffund.ky.gov.