Torrential rains have caused devastating flooding in Appalachia as rapidly rising waters in Kentucky killed at least eight people and sent people to rooftops to save.
Etter swept through the hills and inundated streams, homes, businesses, and roads throughout eastern Kentucky. Parts of western Virginia and southern West Virginia also saw widespread flooding. Rescue teams used helicopters and boats to rescue people trapped in the flood waters.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear tweeted Thursday evening that the state’s flood death toll had risen to eight. He asked for continuous prayer for the area, which was ready for more rain.
“In a word, this incident is devastating,” Mr Beshear said earlier in the day. “And I believe it will be one of the most significant, deadly floods in Kentucky, at least in a very long time.”
Mr Beshear warned that property damage in Kentucky would be widespread. The governor said officials are setting up a site for donations that will go to residents affected by the flood.
The governor said dangerous conditions and incessant rain hampered the rescue work on Thursday.
“We have a lot of people who need help that we can’t get at the moment,” Mr Beshear said. “we will do.”
Flash floods and landslides were reported in the mountainous region of eastern Kentucky, western Virginia and southern West Virginia, where several inches of rain fell over the past few days.
With more rain expected in the area, the National Weather Service said additional flooding was possible in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia on Friday. Forecasters said the greatest risk of flash floods is expected to shift eastward into West Virginia.
Poweroutage.us reported more than 31,000 customers without power in eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia, with a large number of outages in Kentucky.
“There are a lot of people on rooftops in eastern Kentucky waiting to be rescued,” Mr Beshear said earlier on Thursday. “There are many people who have no account and I am almost certain that this is a situation where we are going to lose some of them.”
Rescuers worked overnight to help people trapped by rising waters in eastern Kentucky’s Perry County, where emergency management director Jerry Stacey called it a “devastating incident.”
“We are in rescue mode right now,” Stacey said in a phone call to the Associated Press, as he struggled to reach his office in Hazard. “Extreme flash floods and mudslides are everywhere.”
The storm struck an Appalachian mountain region, where communities and homes are nestled on steep hillsides or deep in the hollows between them, where creeks and currents can quickly rise. But it is much worse than a normal flood, Mr Stacey said.
“I’ve lived here in Perry County my whole life and this is by far the worst I’ve ever seen,” he said.
The National Weather Service said roads were not walkable in many areas as of Thursday after six inches (15 centimeters) of rain fell in some areas, and 1-3 inches (7.5 centimeters) more could fall.
Mr Beshear said he has deployed National Guard troops to the hardest-hit areas, and has opened three parks in the region as shelters for displaced people.
Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in West Virginia after a strong thunderstorm this week caused significant local flooding, downed trees, power outages and blocked roads.
Communities in southwest Virginia were also flooding, and the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Virginia, warned of more rain and thunderstorms Thursday.