Kentucky’s deadly flooding: Five things to know

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Intense rainfall throughout much of the Southeastern United States this week has caused devastating flooding, with the worst conditions hitting Kentucky.

The flooding has claimed more than a dozen lives throughout the state, and officials are cautioning that more are at risk as rain returns throughout the weekend.

Federal and state officials are collaborating to try to save lives and conduct rescue efforts for those missing. They are also working to spread awareness of the dangerous conditions.

Here are five key things to know about the deadly floods in Kentucky:

At least 16 people killed

State authorities have confirmed at least 16 fatalities as a result of the flooding, but the death toll will likely rise.

Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said at a press conference on Friday that at least six of the dead are children.

A woman told the Lexington Herald Leader that four of her cousins, all of whom were siblings and range in age from 1-and-a-half to 8 years old, were swept away in the flooding Thursday. Their bodies were found by the next day. Their parents were stranded in a tree for eight hours before they were rescued.

Eleven of the 16 confirmed deaths so far have been in Knott County, one of the easternmost counties in the state, not far from the Virginia border.

Beshear said the Kentucky Department of Public Health is responsible for verifying the deaths.

He said in a video on Friday that some of those lost may include “entire families.”

With an uncertain number missing, Beshear has said the death toll may continue to rise for weeks.

The National Guard has been called in

Beshear has activated the Kentucky National Guard to assist with rescue and recovery efforts. He said President Biden approved his initial request to issue a federal disaster declaration, which makes emergency federal funding available for state, tribal and eligible local governments and some nonprofit organizations for taking protective measures.

The funding Biden made available includes direct assistance to more than a dozen of the most directly affected counties.

“This federal funding is critical for our recovery efforts and Kentuckians impacted by the historic flooding,” Beshear tweeted.

A release from the governor’s office states that the National Guard has rescued 119 people by aircraft as of Friday, while the Kentucky Air National Guard Special Tactics Squadron, in coordination with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, has rescued 64 people.

Kentucky and St. Louis both saw 1,000-year events

The recent storms in eastern Kentucky dropped as much as 8 to 10 inches of rainfall, enough to be considered a “1,000-year flood.”

The term means a flood of that magnitude has only a one in 1,000, or 0.1 percent, chance of occurring in any given year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis region set a new one-day rainfall record on Tuesday with its own 1,000-year flood. Just over 9 inches fell in the area on that day, easily beating the old record of 6.85 inches recorded in August 1915, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

More rain coming

The eastern Kentucky region is not finished with rainfall or flooding yet as more rain is expected to come to the area after a short respite.

Additional rain fell on Friday, and the National Weather Service forecasts that showers are likely to return on Sunday and Monday with a chance of thunderstorms.

The governor’s office says that the water levels in some areas will not peak until Saturday.

Beshear said at the press conference on Friday that the flooding is “by far the worst” of any he has seen since he became governor in 2019. He said “much” of the city of Jackson is under water, and multiple mudslides have rendered roads in Perry County impassable.

Help requested for relief efforts

About 23,000 power outages have been reported, while 21 water systems are working under limited operations as a result of flooding and outages. Two such water systems were not operational as of Friday morning.

Beshear said at his Friday press conference that hundreds of homes, parks and ballfields are under “more water than any of us have ever seen” in that area.

The governor launched a relief fund on Thursday to help those affected by the flood with food, shelter and other necessities and provide emergency funds. The fund’s priority is currently monetary donations, but it will transition to water and cleaning supplies.

Beshear has said that rebuilding efforts may take years.

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