Eastern Kentucky hit with 'devastating' flooding, Beshear says, as death toll continues to rise

Get the latest updates here: Friday updates as Eastern Kentucky flooding relief efforts continue

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said several deaths have been confirmed and hundreds of families in the commonwealth likely lost their homes as devastating flash flooding swept through Eastern Kentucky overnight Wednesday heading into Thursday morning.

In a press briefing Thursday, Beshear said the region had experienced a "tough night, and maybe an even tougher morning," with more rain in the forecast later in the day. The governor had called a state of emergency, he said, as streets and homes in several counties throughout the region had been flooded after rain hit the eastern portion of the state overnight.

A flood warning was in effect for several Eastern Kentucky counties until 3 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service of Jackson. More than six inches of rain fell overnight in much of the region, a meteorologist with the department said.

Eastern Kentucky floodingHere's everything we know

Keep up with updating coverage from our reporters in Eastern Kentucky:

6 p.m.: Death toll rises to 8

At least eight people have died as a result of overnight flooding in Eastern Kentucky, Beshear said in a video Thursday evening, and more deaths are likely to be reported.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Beshear had confirmed three deaths two people in Perry County and one in Knott County. He did not offer any specifics about the five additional people reported to have been killed in his video statement released just before 6 p.m. Thursday.

None of the names of the victims have been released as of Thursday evening.

"Our death toll is growing," he said. "By the end, we expect it will be in double digits, and a lot of families out there have lost absolutely everything."

Between 20-30 people have been airlifted in rescue efforts throughout the day, he said, and boat rescues have taken place as well. Still, Beshear said, rescue efforts continue, as some people are trapped in areas that are difficult to access.

More rain is expected tonight, he added, which "may worsen the situation in many places."

4 p.m.: Flooding relief fund is live

The Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, set up by the governor's office to help the people impacted by the flooding, is now up and running.

People can donate by mailing a check to Public Protection Cabinet, 500 Mero Street, 218 NC, Frankfort, KY 40601 or they can do it through the relief fund website.

A bible is lit by a crack in the roof of Eunice Howard's home Thursday afternoon. Flash flooding swept the trailer home off its foundation and carried it around 250 feet from its original location Thursday morning.  July 28, 2022
A bible is lit by a crack in the roof of Eunice Howard's home Thursday afternoon. Flash flooding swept the trailer home off its foundation and carried it around 250 feet from its original location Thursday morning. July 28, 2022

How to help:Want to help those affected by Kentucky flooding? Here's what you can donate and where

In his 12:30 p.m. conference, Beshear announced the fund, like the fund created when tornadoes hit Western Kentucky, is aimed at helping families impacted by the natural disaster.

"This will be a fund that will be spent entirely to help the families that are impacted and it will not just be the immediate relief fund," Beshear said.

2:30 p.m.: Massive rainfall, and more on the way

More rain is on the way in Eastern Kentucky, meteorologists say, after flooding ripped through the region Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Brandon Bonds, a Jackson meteorologist, said more additional storms could be coming to the area over the weekend, after more than six inches of rain fell in some parts of the region just hours earlier.

Eastern Kentucky had experienced plenty of wet weather in the days leading up to the flooding. According to the weather service in Jackson, 10.4 inches of rain had fallen at Buckhorn Lake over the course of the past three days, with 9.28 inches at Pippa Passes, 8.48 inches at Oneida and 8 inches at Buckhorn.

KY flooding shelters:Kentucky opens flooding shelters in state parks, courthouses, churches

Map for Garrett, KY, Whitesburg, Hazard, other Eastern Kentucky flooding

12:30 p.m.: First deaths confirmed

Beshear said in his 12:30 p.m. press conference that multiple deaths have been confirmed due to the flooding. He said a Perry County native, an 81-year-old woman, has died, and other two other victims have been reported in Perry and Knott counties.

He said in the conference that deaths are expected to rise into the double digits. There are a number people that are still waiting to be rescued, he added.

"In a word, this event is devastating, and I do believe it will end up being one of the most significant deadly floods that we have had in Kentucky in at least a very long time. There are going to be a lot of people out there that need our help, there's going to be a lot of people that are going to be displaced, and this is yet another disaster that is going to take some time to rebuild."

Kentucky weather report:More rain likely Thursday after Eastern Kentucky hit with 6 inches, causing flash flooding

11 a.m.: National Guard dispatched to eastern Kentucky counties

The National Guard has been mobilized, according to Maj. Gen. Hal Lamberton and Beshear. The situation is "dynamic" and developing, the governor said, but major property damage is expected and hundreds of families are expected to be displaced.

"This is going to be yet another event that it's going to take not months but likely years for many families to rebuild and recover from," Beshear said.

In Perry County alone, according to Deputy Sheriff Scott Sandlin, 20 people were unaccounted for early Thursday morning. The region had been hit with major flooding, he said, with several bridges and roads covered in water and other structures destroyed.

Resources for families

Three state parks – Pine Mountain, Buckhorn Lake and Jennie Wiley – have been opened for people who lost their homes, Beshear said, "because a lot of people are going to either fully lose their home or it is not going to be habitable for some time."

Shelters are also open at the Lees College gym in Jackson and the First Presbyterian Church in Hazard, at 160 Broadway St., Beshear said.

In Hazard, meanwhile, the American Red Cross Kentucky Region opened a flood response shelter in Perry County and beyond. According to their spokesperson, Amber Youngblood, the group has mobilized resources since 1 a.m. Wednesday. The group's Hazard office can be reached at 606-629-3344.

In his 12:30 p.m. press conference, Beshear urged people in Breathitt, Perry, Knott and Letcher counties who are missing family members to call Kentucky State Police at 606-435-6069 instead of 911.

"If it's busy, keep calling. Hate to ask you to do that, but they are getting a lot of calls because of what they do and the amount of damage that is out here," he said.

More than 23,000 people were without power when Beshear spoke at 9:30 a.m. That figure had risen past 24,500 as of 1 p.m., according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages across the nation.

Eastern Kentucky flood:Kentucky opens flooding shelters in state parks, courthouses, churches

How much rain fell in Eastern Kentucky?

Dustin Jordan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Jackson, said Clark Creek in Knott County had seen 6.82 inches of rain in the past two days, and 6.23 of those were just in the past 24 hours. Perry County had seen 7 inches of rain in the past two days, he said, and the city of Prestonsburg in Floyd County had received 1.67 inches of rain in the past 24 hours but had seen more precipitation in the days leading up to the flooding. About 4.7 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period in Breathitt County, too, he said.

Jackson's National Weather Service office is located in Breathitt County – employees cannot currently access it, Jordan said, as roads by the facility are covered in water. Beshear said he was aware of several people trapped in a school in the region as well.

He also said that at least 1 to 2 inches of rain can be expected between Thursday night into Friday south of Interstate 64.

Heavy rain that fell earlier in the week in that region had already caused some flooding, several social media users noted. Photos and videos taken by residents of the region were spread far and wide Thursday morning as many across the state woke up to the devastation.

What happens next

In the meantime, Beshear said, rescue efforts are underway to help the people who are trapped in the school, and the National Guard has mobilized to support others in the region.

How to help those affected by the Kentucky floods

People are encouraged to donate water and cleaning supplies, according to Beshear, who said in his Thursday morning press conference that the affected regions will be without water temporarily due to this emergency. His office said that they will begin delivering "truckloads of water" to affected regions.

He also said that clothing donation was currently not a priority.

How to report missing people

Kentucky State Police said in an email that they can be contacted if people are missing a family member as a cause of the flooding in Eastern Kentucky counties.

  • People in Breathitt, Perry, Knott, Letcher or Leslie counties call Post 13 in Hazard County at 606-435-6069.

  • People in Magoffin, Johnson, Martin, Floyd or Pike counties call Post 9 in Pikeville County at 606-433-7711.

  • People in Jackson, Owsley, or Lee counties call Post 7 in Richmond at 859-623-2404.

  • People in Wolfe or Morgan counties call Post 8 in Morehead at 606-784-4127.

  • People in Harlan County can call Post 10 in Harland County at 606-573-3131.

Since they are reciving many phone calls due to the emergency, they said in their email that people should report a missing person by sending an email to ksppubaff@ky.gov and include the following information:

  • Your name (first, last)

  • Your phone number

  • Name of missing family member (first, last)

  • County of residence of missing family member

  • Description of missing family member (gender, age, race, etc)

  • Home address and phone number of missing family member

Jesse Elbouab, the executive staff advisor with the Kentucky National Guard's Public Affairs Office, said her team was "working through the night" to release how many people are reported to be missing because of the flooding in the governor's statement tomorrow morning.

Where to donate

Those looking to contribute money to help flood victims can do so at the eKY Mutual Aid, which posted a flood relief fund with a current goal of $20,000. The Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky is also accepting donations, sending funds directly to rescue efforts. Beshear also said the state will open a fund for donations.

This story will be updated.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky flooding Thurday updates: Several deaths reported