Marilyn Abner Stockley/AP
Rescuers pulled people from rooftops Thursday amid rapidly rising water in central Appalachia, where torrential rains prompted what Kentucky’s governor described as one of the worst floods in the state’s history.
An emergency official in hard-hit eastern Kentucky described the situation as “catastrophic” as water rescue crews searched for stranded people. Gov. Andy Bashir said hundreds of properties could be destroyed.
Bashir said during a briefing on Thursday: “What we see from this incident is huge financial losses.” “We expect to lose lives. Hundreds of people will lose their homes, and this is another event that will take many families not months, but possibly years, to rebuild and recover.”
Flash flooding and mudslides have been reported across the mountainous region of eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and southern West Virginia, where thunderstorms have dumped several inches of rain over the past few days.
Poweroutage.us reported more than 20,000 customers without power in eastern Kentucky and nearly 10,000 more in neighboring states.
“We are currently experiencing one of the worst and most devastating floods in Kentucky history,” Bashir said. “It’s a dynamic and ongoing situation. In most places we’re not seeing the water recede. In fact, in most places it hasn’t crested yet.”
“There are many people in eastern Kentucky on rooftops waiting to be rescued,” the governor added. “There are a number of people who have not been named and I’m pretty sure that’s a situation where we’re going to lose some of them.”
Rescue crews worked through the night to help people stranded by rising waters in eastern Kentucky, where emergency management director Jerry Stacey called it a “catastrophic event.”
“We’re in rescue mode right now,” Stacey told The Associated Press by phone while trying to reach his office in Hazard. Severe floods and mudslides have covered everywhere.”
The storms hit an Appalachian mountain region where communities and homes are built on steep hillsides or in the hollows between them, where the only flat land often contains streams and creeks that can be Hurry up. But this one is far worse than a typical flood, said Stacey, 54.
“I’ve lived here in Perry County my whole life and this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Roads were impassable in many areas after 6 inches (15 cm) of rain fell in some areas by Thursday, and 1 to 3 inches (7.5 cm) more is possible, the National Weather Service said.
Bashir said he had deployed National Guard troops to the worst-hit areas and that three parks in the area had been opened as shelters for the displaced.
In Kentucky’s Perry, Leslie and Clay counties, people in low-lying areas were asked to seek higher ground after several water rescues. The Breathitt County Courthouse opened overnight, and Emergency Management Director Chris Fraley said the Old Montessori School will provide more permanent shelter when crews can staff it.
“This is the worst we’ve had in a long time,” Frailey told WKYT-TV.
Perry County officials told WKYT-TV that flooding washed out roads and bridges and knocked homes off their foundations. The city of Hazzard said rescue crews were out all night and asked people on Facebook to stay off the roads and “pray for a break in the rain.”
In West Virginia’s Greenbrier County, firefighters pulled people from flooded homes and five campers trapped by high water in Nicholas County were rescued by the Keslers Cross Lanes Volunteer Fire Department, WCHS-TV reported.