Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia have issued emergency declarations and deployed search and rescue amid flooding.
At least 16 people have been confirmed dead from record flooding in eastern Kentucky, where the death toll is expected to rise as search and rescue teams look for missing people from communities washed away by the waters.
“The tough news is 16 confirmed fatalities now, and folks that’s going to get a lot higher,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said during a Friday briefing.
Beshear said the dead included elderly men and women, and two children.
Powerful floodwaters swallowed towns that hug creeks and streams in Appalachian valleys and hollows, swamping homes and businesses, trashing vehicles in useless piles and crushing runaway equipment and debris against bridges. Mudslides marooned people on steep slopes and at least 33,000 customers were without power.
“Everybody out there that is scared, that can’t get in touch with one of their relatives. Cell phones are down in so many of these regions,” the governor said. “We will try to connect as many people as possible. ”
Search and rescue teams had rescued at least 294 people, with more than 100 airlifted from affected areas by the National Guard, the governor said.
Rachel Patton said floodwaters filled her Floyd County home so quickly that her mother, who is on oxygen, had to be evacuated on a door that was floated across the high water. Patton’s voice faltered as she described their harrowing escape.
“We had to swim out and it was cold. It was over my head so it was, it was scary,” she told WCHS TV.
US President Joe Biden has approved Beshear’s request for a disaster declaration in the state to release federal funds to aid in rescue and rebuilding.
Some of the areas most severely affected suffer from high levels of poverty, and Beshear predicted it will take more than a year to recover from the damage.
The flooding situation in Eastern Kentucky is ongoing, with a flood watch in effect through today. Heartbreakingly, we can confirm at least 15 deaths, but we expect that number to grow. Over 23,000 Kentuckians are without power. 1/3 https://t.co/mrx4htJY0k
— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) July 29, 2022
Rain continued to fall in the region Friday. Flood warnings and watches remained in effect throughout the day for the eastern half of the state as well as northeast Tennessee and western West Virginia, where more rainfall was expected to swell waterways that were already well above their flood stages, the National Weather Service (NWS) said.
Rivers across the region were expected to crest on Friday and throughout the weekend while the risk of more dangerous flash flooding remained possible again throughout the day, the NWS said.
Emergency declarations have been issued in Virginia and West Virginia, and rescue teams in those states have been deployed to assist people in areas where flooding has cut off road access. Power outages across Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky have affected more than 33,000 people, according to Poweroutage.us.
Elsewhere in the United States, heavy rains battered Las Vegas, where floodwater washed over streets and rushed onto several casino floors and into parking garages along the famed Las Vegas Strip, video posted on local media and social media showed.
Big time road flooding in the Las Vegas Arts District.
🎥: Jose Amaya pic.twitter.com/kRZZQQcale
— David Charns (@davidcharns) July 29, 2022
At Circa Casino, a video on social media showed rain pouring down from a wall of video displays, while at Planet Hollywood, water rained down on a casino table from what appeared to be a hole in the ceiling.
Several rounds of flooding affected the Midwestern city of St Louis, Missouri this week, with torrential rains on Monday and Tuesday filling the streets with water and a second round of storms on Thursday repeated the flooding.
The city’s fire department said it assisted at least 60 people affected by the high waters and responded to 75 flooding-related emergencies, and the weather service has said that the intensity of the downpour is without precedent in the city’s history.
— NATALIE MINERVA 💅🏼✨ (@NatalieMinerva) July 29, 2022