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Kentucky flood death toll rises to 25, governor says as search continues – NBC10 Philadelphia

Kentucky’s governor said it could take weeks to find all the victims of flash flooding that killed at least 25 people as torrential rains inundated towns across Appalachia.

Gov. Andy Beshear said Saturday that the death toll is likely to rise significantly from the record-breaking flash flooding of the past few days.

“This is an ongoing natural disaster,” Beshear told Fox News. “We are still in search and rescue mode. Fortunately, the rain stopped. But there will be more rain from Sunday afternoon.”

Meanwhile, rescue workers continue to struggle to reach hard-hit areas, some of which are among the poorest in America. Crews have made more than 1,200 rescues from helicopters and boats, the governor said.

The rain stopped early Friday after 8 to 10 1/2 inches fell in eastern Kentucky in 48 hours. But some waterways were not expected to rise until Saturday.

Patricia Colombo, 63, of Hazard, Kentucky, was stranded when her car got stuck in floodwaters on a state highway. Colomba started to panic as water started gushing inside. Even though her phone was dead, she saw a helicopter overhead and waved it down. The helicopter crew radioed the ground team, who took her to safety.

Colomba stayed the night at her fiancé’s house in Jackson, and they took turns sleeping, repeatedly checking the water with flashlights to see if it was rising. While her car was a loss, Colombo said others had it worse in a region where poverty is endemic.

“Many of these people cannot recover here. They have houses that are half under water, they have lost everything,” she said.

It’s the latest in a series of catastrophic floods to hit parts of the U.S. this summer, including in St. Louis earlier this week and again on Friday. Scientists warn that climate change is making weather disasters more frequent.

As precipitation hit Appalachia this week, water flowed down hillsides into valleys and basins that swelled the creeks and streams that flow through small towns. The flow engulfed homes and businesses and smashed cars. On the steep slopes, some people were slippery.

Rescuers, supported by the National Guard, used helicopters and boats to search for the missing. Beshear said on Friday that at least six children were among the victims and that the death toll could more than double as rescue teams reach new areas. Four children from a Knott County family were among the dead, the county coroner said Friday.

President Joe Biden said in a social media post that he spoke with Beshear on Friday and offered the support of the federal government. Biden also declared a federal disaster to send relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties.

Flooding spread to western Virginia and southern West Virginia.

Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency in six West Virginia counties, where flooding caused downed trees, power outages and road closures. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin also declared a state of emergency, allowing officials to mobilize resources in the flooded southwest of the state.

More than 20,000 utility customers in Kentucky and nearly 6,100 in Virginia were without power Friday night, according to

Extreme rains are becoming more common as climate change scorches the planet and alters weather patterns, scientists say. That’s a growing problem for disaster officials because the models used to predict storm effects are based in part on past events and can’t keep up with increasingly destructive flash floods and heat waves like those that recently hit the Pacific Northwest. ocean and southern plains.

“There’s a battle of the extremes going on in the United States right now,” said Jason Furtado, a meteorologist at the University of Oklahoma. “We expect this to happen because of climate change. … A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, and that means you can get more heavy precipitation.”

The deluge came two days after record rains dumped more than 12 inches (31 centimeters) around St. Louis and killed at least two people. Last month, heavy rain on top of the mountain snow in Yellowstone National Park caused historic flooding and the evacuation of more than 10,000 people. In both cases, the rain flood significantly exceeded forecasters’ forecasts.

The floodwaters raging in the Appalachian Mountains were so fast that some people trapped in their homes could not be reached immediately, Floyd County Judge Executive Robbie Williams said.

To the west in hard-hit Perry County, authorities said some people are still missing and nearly everyone in the area has sustained some damage.

“We still have a lot of searching to do,” said Jerry Stacey, director of the county’s emergency management department.

More than 330 people sought shelter, Beshear said. And with so much material damage, the governor opened an online portal for donations to the victims.

Beshear predicted the full renovation would take more than a year.

Sections of at least 28 state roads in Kentucky were blocked due to flooding or mudslides. Rescue workers in Virginia and West Virginia worked to reach people where roads were impassable.

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