LOUISVILLE, Ky. – (AP) – Another round of rainstorms battered flooded mountain communities in Kentucky on Monday as more bodies emerged from the soggy landscape, and the governor warned high winds could bring another threat – falling trees and electric poles.
Governor Andy Beshear said the death toll rose to 35 and hundreds of people remained missing for five days after one of the country’s poorest regions was flooded by nearly a foot of rain. Water rushed down hills and into valleys and hollows, engulfing entire towns. Landslides have trapped some people on steep slopes.
Radar said up to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) more of rain fell on Sunday, and the National Weather Service warned that downpours and slow-moving thunderstorms could bring more flash flooding through Tuesday morning.
“If things weren’t bad enough for the people of this region, it’s raining right now,” Beshear said Monday at the Capitol in Frankfurt. “Equally concerning are high winds – think ground saturation – it could topple poles, it could topple trees. So people have to be careful. »
An approaching heat wave means “it’s even going to get tougher when the rain stops,” the governor said. “It’s going to get really hot, and we have to make sure people are finally stable at this point.”
More than 12,000 customers have been left without power, many because their homes and businesses have been destroyed or are unfit for habitation. At least 300 people were staying in shelters.
The floods were triggered last week when 8 to 10 1/2 inches (20 to 27 centimeters) of rain fell in just 48 hours in parts of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia and the West Virginia.
The disaster was the latest in a series of catastrophic deluges that have hit parts of the United States this summer, including St. Louis. Scientists warn that climate change is making such events more frequent.
The floodwaters also swept away some of the area’s irreplaceable history. Appalshop, a cultural center known for chronicling Appalachian life, was assessing extensive damage to its depot, where historical documents and artifacts were removed from the building.
During a visit to the disaster area on Sunday, Beshear said he saw how people were helping their neighbours.
“They’re amazing people. They’re hurting, but they’re strong. And it’s amazing to see them helping each other, even when they have nothing left,” he said.
About 400 people were rescued by helicopter, according to Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the US National Guard Bureau.
“In light of the devastation, the response is going quite well,” he said on Sunday.
The governor canceled a trip to Israel scheduled for later this week, saying he could not travel abroad “while the people of Eastern Kentucky suffer.”
Meanwhile, nightly curfews have been declared in response to reports of looting in two of the devastated communities – Breathitt County and the nearby town of Hindman in Knott County.
Breathitt County has declared a countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., County Attorney Brendon Miller said in a Facebook post Sunday evening. The only exceptions were for emergency vehicles, first responders and people traveling for work.
“I hate having to impose a curfew, but looting will absolutely not be tolerated. Our friends and neighbors have lost so much. We cannot sit idly by and allow them to lose what they have left,” the post said.
Breathitt County Sheriff John Hollan said the curfew decision came after 18 reports of looting.
He said people were stealing from private properties where houses were damaged. No arrests were made.
Hindman Mayor Tracy Neice also announced a sunset-to-sunrise curfew due to looting, WYMT TV reported. Both curfews will remain in place until further notice, officials said.
Flooding last week spread to West Virginia, where Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six southern counties, and Virginia, where Governor Glenn Youngkin issued a similar statement aimed at to mobilize resources in the southwestern part of the state.
President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief funds to flooded counties, and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials assisted with recovery efforts.
Another relief effort came from the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team, which has scheduled an open practice Tuesday at Rupp Arena and a charity telethon.
Coach John Calipari said the players approached him about the idea.
“The team and I are looking forward to doing what we can,” Calipari said.
Associated Press reporters Dylan Lovan in Louisville, Mike Pesoli in flight with the National Guard, Gary B. Graves in Lexington, and Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.
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