Record flooding in parts of Appalachia have left at least 15 dead, hundreds of homes destroyed and entire communities wiped out.
Search and rescue teams backed by the National Guard searched Friday for missing people in parts of eastern Kentucky, even as rains continued to fall. West Virginia’s governor declared an emergency in six counties as the torrential rains moved eastward, according to the Associated Press and USA Today news reports.
“We’ve still got a lot of searching to do. We still have missing people.” said Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director in Kentucky’s hard-hit Perry County. “I’ve lived here in Perry County all my life and this is by the far the worst event I’ve ever seen.”
Powerful floodwaters swallowed towns that hug creeks and streams in Appalachian valleys and hollows, leaving vehicles in useless piles, crunching runaway equipment and piles of debris against bridges and swamping homes and businesses. Mudslides on steep slopes left many people marooned and without power and made rescues more difficult.
“It is devastating,” Gov. Andy Beshear told CNN before touring the disaster area. “Our number of Kentuckians we’ve lost is now at 15. I expect it to more than double. And it’s going to include some children.”
Floyd County in eastern Kentucky declared a local state of emergency due to significant rainfall and flooding. Beshear said the Kentucky Emergency Management crews have been deployed there.
While floodwaters receded in places after peaking Thursday, the National Weather Service said flash flooding caused by excessive rainfall remained possible through Friday evening.
“Places where there were mobile homes and houses, there’s nothing there now … It’s unbelievable to see,” Stacy said. “You get 8 inches of rain in three hours, it’s just not anything that we have ever seen — ever, here.”
The website Poweroutage.us reported more than 20,000 power outages in eastern Kentucky, and nearly 10,000 more in southern West Virginia and southwest Virginia.
In West Virginia’s Greenbrier County, firefighters pulled people from flooded homes, and five people who got stranded by high water while camping in Nicholas County were rescued by the Keslers Cross Lanes Volunteer Fire Department, WCHS-TV reported.
The emergency came six weeks after heavy rains caused flooding in other parts of West Virginia. The state’s governor has said he plans to appeal a ruling that denied federal assistance for three counties. The Federal Emergency Management Agency ruled that May 6 storm damage was not severe enough to qualify for assistance in Cabell, Putnam and Roane counties.
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