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Deadly flooding in eastern Kentucky

Drone footage shows scope of damage from flooding
02:13

What we're covering

  • At least 16 people have died due to flooding in eastern Kentucky, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. The death toll is expected to rise, he said.
  • Rescues are underway to reach difficult-to-access areas after heavy rains hit Wednesday night into Thursday. Floodwaters washed out bridges, caused power outages and sent some residents scrambling to their rooftops.
  • More rainfall is expected Friday. Eastern Kentucky has a slight to moderate risk of flash flooding through Friday evening as an additional 1 to 3 inches is possible throughout the day, according to the Weather Prediction Center.
  • Scientists say the human-caused climate crisis is worsening extreme weather around the globe. Warmer air holds more water, which means more dangerous flooding, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Our live coverage has ended. You can read more about the floods here.

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Four siblings, ages 2 to 8, among the dead in eastern Kentucky flooding, family member says

Four of the children who were found dead in Knott County following the devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky were siblings, their aunt Brandi Smith told CNN on Friday. 

Smith is the sister of the children’s mother, Amber Smith, and identified the four children as Chance, age 2; Nevaeh, age 4; Riley Jr., age 6; and Madison, age 8.

According to Smith, who learned of the deaths from the children’s mother, the family’s trailer home became quickly flooded with water forcing the family to seek shelter on the roof. 

“They were holding on to them. The water got so strong it just washed them away. It pulled on them from their arms,” Smith said when describing how her sister and her partner, Riley Noble, tried to save their kids.

Smith said the couple had to wait several hours to be rescued and even though they’re physically okay, they’re still in shock. 

She described her nieces and nephews as sweet, funny and lovable children.

Gov. Andy Beshear said earlier today the bodies of four missing children in Knott County had been found following devastating flooding, but did not provide additional details.

CNN’s Sharif Paget contributed to this report

Kentucky governor says downed infrastructure making it hard to reach people missing in flooding

Garland Combs walks past a car and garage that was swept downstream near the muddy Grapevine Creek in Perry County on July 28.

Getting a reliable number of the people who are missing or dead in eastern Kentucky flooding has been nearly impossible due to the infrastructure that has been damaged, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday evening.

“There are people out there all across Kentucky and America that are scared because they can’t reach their relatives, with cell phone systems down, thousands without power, and water systems overwhelmed,” Beshear told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

The tracking website PowerOutage.us indicated that a majority of power customers in Knott and Letcher Counties were still in the dark Friday evening, with thousands more without power in neighboring Letcher and Perry Counties.

The governor said the official death toll of 16 “could potentially double” as more information comes in from county officials. Beshear said the water will have to begin receding to the upcoming days before they can think about what it will take to rebuild.

“That’s going to take years,” he said.

National Guard using Black Hawks to assist in Kentucky flood response

The West Virginia National Guard sent two UH-60M Blackhawks and two Lakota aircraft with crews comprising of 14 soldiers to assist in the flood response in eastern Kentucky, according to a statement.

In a tweet Friday, the National Guard said that the aircraft has hoist capabilities. 

West Virginia National Guard Major General William Crane said in a tweet that he could not “begin to describe how incredibly proud I am of our @WVNaitonalGuard Soldiers as they demonstrate the spirit of the @USNationalGuard – always ready, always there. 

Crane posted video footage from a rescue today in Southeast Kentucky by a crew from C Co 2/104th GASB (MEDEVAC).

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice thanked National Guard members assisting in the rescue efforts in a tweet Friday. He added that he and his wife are “continuing to pray for those who have lost loved ones and are still searching.”

14 dead from flooding in Kentucky's Knott County, county coroner says

At least 14 are confirmed dead as a result of flooding in Knott County, Kentucky, northeast of the town of Hazard, according to the county coroner.

Coroner Corey Watson told CNN Friday afternoon that the 14 people confirmed dead in Knott County included four children.

It is not immediately clear how this factors into the state’s overall death toll. 

The last official statewide update included 11 deaths in Knott County and 16 deaths statewide. The governor declined to provide an updated statewide death toll during a Friday afternoon news conference, saying they were still getting updates from local officials.

Biden speaks with Kentucky governor about the floods

President Joe Biden confirmed on Twitter that he connected with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear about the flash-flooding in the state that has destroyed communities, caused power outages and killed at least 16 people. 

“I spoke with Governor Beshear and Senator McConnell today to offer the full support of the federal government to the people of Kentucky in response to the devastating flooding,” President Biden said from his official Twitter account. 

The tweet includes a photo of Biden on the phone and looking at a map. 

See the tweet:

When flash flooding strikes, make sure you have a plan. These are some things to have in your house.

A couple abandons their home flooded by the waters of the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Kentucky, on July 28.

Flash flooding, like the kind that devastated parts of eastern Kentucky and killed more than a dozen people, are dangerous because it is powerful and happens quickly.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to have a plan and make sure you are prepared for an emergency. That’s because heavy rainfall is becoming more common due to climate change. Rainfall over land has become more intense since the 1980s, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report’s authors say human influence is the main driver.

This happens because warmer air can hold more water, the report said, adding that more water vapor in the atmosphere means more moisture available to fall as rain, which leads to higher rainfall rates and higher, more dangerous, more widespread flash flooding.

The Red Cross is a great resource. It will help you formulate the best plan and build an emergency kit or a “go bag” to take when forced to evacuate. The Red Cross also has an emergency mobile app that will send weather notifications based on zip code and will help you understand potential hazards.

Here are a few other bits of advice for a flash flood emergency:

  • Keep an ax in the attic — This sounds wild, but if the water is so high that you need to get into the attic, you’re going to need a way out. And that’s going to be straight up through the roof with an ax.
  • Invest in life jackets for the family — If the worst happens and you’re swept away by floodwater, having on a personal floatation device could be the difference between life and death.
  • Never drive through flood water — It’s imperative not to get in your car in a flood, especially if you don’t know whether your escape route is in a flood zone. Two feet of water can float a car, and 6 inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet. If you still find yourself in a car with the flood water rising around you, get out of it immediately and get to high ground.
  • Be prepared to get to higher ground on foot — Driving through flood water is deadly, so the “on foot” part is critical. Grab your emergency kit and head to higher ground on foot before high water hits your doorstep. Plan where that will be ahead of time.

Watch to learn more about why flash flooding is so dangerous:

02 Arizona flash flooding
video

Flash flooding explained: What it is and why it's so dangerous

CNN’s Jennifer Gray, John Keefe and Curt Merrill contributed to this report.

Teen saves herself and her dog by swimming to roof where she waited for several hours during flooding

Chloe Adams, 17, saved herself and her dog by swimming to a neighbor’s roof where she sat for several hours until she was rescued during Thursday’s flooding in Kentucky. 

Terry Adams, the teen’s father, told CNN his daughter was at home in Whitesburg, Kentucky, when the flash flooding started. Adams said his daughter saved her dog by putting the dog in a plastic container and swimming with it to a nearby roof.  

Chloe lives with her grandfather but they were separated when the rushing flood waters made it impossible for Chloe to reach her grandfather, her father said. The family took shelter in her uncle’s home while Chloe had to wait to be rescued.  

According to Adams, his daughter was rescued by a man who used his kayak to save the teen and her dog. Chloe’s grandfather also escaped uninjured. 

Adams shared a photo with CNN, which showed his daughter and her dog sitting on the roof of a home while everything around them was under several feet of water. 

Chloe told CNN she’s still in shock and processing everything that happened. She took a video of what she was witnessed while she waited on the roof. The video shows Chloe and her dog sitting on a small section of a roof that is mostly under water while surrounded by flood waters.  

27 employees of eastern Kentucky's largest health service unaccounted for in flooding

The largest health service in eastern Kentucky has not been able to reach more than two dozen of its employees since devastating flooding began in the region Thursday.

“Right now, 27 team members are unaccounted for,” Appalachian Regional Healthcare CEO Hollie Phillips told CNN Friday afternoon.

Phillips said most of the missing employees work at the ARH hospital in Hazard, one of the largest of their 12 hospitals in Kentucky. “We pray that our employees are healthy and safe,” she said.

All ARH hospitals have remained open during the crisis, although some workers have had to be reassigned to other locations in order to cover unavailable workers, according to Phillips. She says many of their nearly 100 clinics are closed.

“We have one clinic that we believe we have lost completely,” said Phillips, with another two possibly unsalvageable in Floyd County.

Despite difficulties with staffing and accessibility, Phillips says ARH has been able to continue critical functions at all of its hospitals.

“Our emergency departments are very, very busy,” she said.

Track the heaviest flooding in Kentucky here

A house is seen almost completely submerged on July 29 in Breathitt County, Kentucky.

Record flash flooding along the North Fork Kentucky River is surging into the Kentucky River, raising river levels.

Water levels are still in a major flood stage — Level 3 of 3 — but are forecast to gradually decrease over the next 24 to 48 hours.

The North Fork Kentucky River gauge, located in Jackson, crested around 2:30 a.m. EDT this morning at 43.47 feet, setting a new record.

The current forecast has the river at this location dropping to moderate flood stage — Level 2 of 3 — by Friday evening and below flood levels by Saturday eveni ng.

Click here to track where the flooding has been the heaviest over the last 24 hours.

Flash floods are even more dangerous after dark. Here's what to do to stay safe and alert.

Members of the Jackson Fire Department prepare to conduct search and rescue operations on July 28, in Jackson, Kentucky.

There is no more dangerous time for severe weather than after dark. You can’t see the storm coming. You can’t see the water rising. And, if it’s late enough, you’re not awake to hear the warnings.

This is exactly what happened in eastern Kentucky in the early morning Thursday. Torrential rain overwhelmed a river, which rapidly grew beyond its banks and flooded the surrounding towns, flooding homes up to their roofs and killing more than a dozen people.

“This is so deadly, and it hit so hard, and it hit in the middle of the night,” Gov. Andy Beshear said of the disaster. Houses were “completely swept away in the middle of the night,” possibly while residents were sleeping.

Forecasters at the National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency alert — the agency’s most dire warning tool for flooding — around 1 a.m. Thursday. In many homes, the only way that alert would have come through at that hour would have been a Wireless Emergency Alert on cell phones. But even those can be shut off by users.

Here’s what to do to keep yourself and your family safe:

  • Know your risk: The tops of hills don’t have the same risk as low-level land near creeks, streams or rivers, so the first thing you should do is figure out whether your home is in one of these risky zones. You can look up your address on FEMA’s flood mapping tool. Are there stripes or swaths of color over your home or neighborhood? If there are, then you’re at least at some level of risk. Riskfactor.com is another tool that adds how scientists expect the risk to change in the coming decades. The climate crisis is supercharging rainfall, which means more flood risk.
  • Be aware: Flash flooding, by nature, is intense and sudden. You aren’t going to have time to plan once a flash flood hits. Meteorologists are really good at getting the word out so follow the National Weather Service or your local TV meteorologist on social media. It’s also a good idea to bookmark your local forecast on weather.gov and sign up for severe weather alerts through a weather app. Remember, a watch is issued when conditions are right for bad weather, but it hasn’t happened yet, a warning is issued when the severe weather is happening and an emergency is issued when things are really, really bad.
  • Don’t shut off your cell phone alerts: You know them when you hear them — those blaring emergency alerts that come out of your cell phone. Tornado, flash flooding, a missing child — all of these will trigger one of those Wireless Emergency Alerts. So, don’t turn them off. They might be the only line of defense between you and deadly weather when you’re fast asleep at 2 a.m.
  • Purchase a weather radio: You can’t watch TV or surf the web when the power is out. You might not have a strong enough cell signal to get the WEA alert. So, when all else fails, a weather radio will ensure you get the warning. Many of these radios are equipped with flashlights and hand cranks to keep the battery charged. Some have solar panels.

Read more about how to stay safe during flash floods here.

At least 6 children among the dead in eastern Kentucky flooding, governor says

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a press conference on Friday, July 29.

The bodies of four missing children in Knott County, Kentucky, have been found following devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday.

“That means we’ve got at least six dead children,” Beshear said. Earlier Friday, he said two children had died in Knott County.

Beshear said that he did not have an update on the official death toll to provide early Friday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the governor confirmed 16 fatalities due to the flooding. 

Beshear conducted an aerial tour of the flood zone Friday along with Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Hundreds of homes, their ballfields, their parks, businesses, under more water than I think any of us have ever seen in that area,” Beshear said. “Absolutely impassable in numerous spots.”

Search and rescue operations are still "very, very active," Kentucky official says

Lexington Firefighters conduct search and rescue in Lost Creek, Kentucky on July 29.

Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker said that the main priority right now is conducting search and rescue missions for victims of the devastating flooding in eastern parts of the state.

“We are very, very active still in search and rescue missions, and that includes both by water, ground and air,” he told CNN.  

The Kentucky State Police and the Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee National Guard have provided multiple helicopters with hoisting capabilities to conduct rescues.

“Many, many of those areas are just not accessible by vehicle or foot, and so that is the only option we have,” he said about utilizing the aircraft.

“We’re also actively sending aircraft out for observation, because a lot of the rescues are from something they just see from the air and then we respond to it because the victim was unable to make the phone call or to get assistance. As well as many, many water rescues by boat and getting them from one area and across some dangerous waters to another area,” he added.

Biden is receiving updates on flooding and plans to speak to Gov. Beshear later today, White House says

President Joe Biden attends a meeting on July 28 in Washington, DC.

President Biden is receiving regular updates on the flash flooding in Kentucky, and the White House expects he will speak to Gov. Andy Beshear later today, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday. 

Biden has already spoken with Republican leader and Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, according to the White House.

“The White House is continuing to closely monitor the devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky and President Biden is receiving updates very regularly,” Jean-Pierre told reporters. “The President reached out to Gov. Beshear — as some of you may have already heard — last night and left him a voicemail offering the support of the federal government, and I expect they will speak at some point today. He also called Sen. McConnell this morning to offer support.”

Biden approved an expedited emergency disaster declaration in Kentucky earlier this morning. 

“Our hearts break for the families of those who have lost their lives, or are missing, and to all those who have been impacted,” Jean-Pierre added.

"It looks like a war zone here": People in Kentucky assess damage from floods

Clay Nickels and his wife, McKenzie, were woken up at 5 a.m. on Thursday morning to what they thought was someone banging at their door.

When they went to check, it turned out to be rocks from a mudslide hitting the side of their house, Clay told CNN.

Immediately the couple began packing up their important documents and valuables and evacuated to McKenzie’s mother’s house nearby. Clay said McKenzie had a plan in place and packed everything up within five minutes.

The Nickels live in Neon, Kentucky, in Letcher County, a part of the state that was heavily affected by the floods.

After things were under control, Clay says he and his wife went to check on family.

“At one point we looked down the hill and you could see a football field completely underwater,” Clay said, “The bleachers were our guide of telling if the water was receding or not.”

They then went to check on Clay’s grandfather who lives nearby. The couple took life jackets with them, not knowing how deep the water would get. 

After wading in chest-deep water, the two arrived at Clay’s grandfather’s home.

He attempted to drive to his father and his other set of grandparents who live in Kite, Kentucky, about 16 miles away. But in order to reach them he spent hours using a chainsaw to cut down trees that were blocking roadways.

“The scariest part was hearing about the multiple fatalities,” Clay said. “People were saying that there were deaths in my father and grandparents’ part of town and I had no way of knowing if it was them.”

Everyone in Clay’s family is okay, but their houses are destroyed.

“My grandparents have 8-10 foot ceilings on their first floor and it was completely full of water,” He said, “Furniture is displaced and destroyed.” Clay and McKenzie’s home only suffered from some a small amount of water leaking inside.

His great-grandfather, who is 93, was able to evacuate his home before the flooding got worse. Clay says he stayed in his car up the hill by himself for some time, waiting for another family member to get him.

“It looks like a war zone here,” he said, “This affected everybody. There’s very few people I know whose house, vehicle or lives have not been altered by this,”

Clay said they’ve been told it’ll take at least a week before power and water is restored, but he believes it will be longer.

At least 21 drinking water systems damaged in flood, officials say

Flooding in eastern Kentucky led to outages and damage to more than 20 drinking water systems, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

“There are 21 drinking water systems with known damage and outages in Eastern Kentucky due to recent flooding,” EEC said on Friday.

According to EEC, three teams from its emergency response field staff “will be conducting initial hazardous material identification surveys today, and Kentucky Division of Forestry is assisting with debris removal” in the state. 

EEC warned that other water systems may be impacted, but “due to damaged communication systems and power outages, there are still some water systems with whom communication has not been established,” it said in a Facebook post

In a Friday update, the city of Hazard said most of Perry County “will be out of water for the time being.”

“We have lost two sections of 18 inch line, some of which is still underwater as the river recedes,” the city said. “If you have water, a boil water advisory is out for the entire county until further notice.”

“Lots of homes still without water or gas,” Hazard officials said. 

Here are the numbers to call to report a loved one missing

Thousands of people have been rescued from devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said on Friday, but many families are still searching for loved ones.

For those with friends or family that are still missing, officials are urging them to call the Kentucky State Police, not 911.

The Kentucky State Police said it is “working diligently to respond” to areas affected by flooding, but its various phone lines are dealing with a “high volume” of calls.

“Troopers continue to work to preserve life and conduct rescue missions, and they remain committed to assisting those in need.  Please dial 911 only if you have an emergency,” KSP said on its website.

To report someone missing, here are the numbers to call for each county:

Breathitt, Perry, Knott, Letcher or Leslie counties: 606-435-6069 (Post 13)
Magoffin, Johnson, Martin, Floyd, or Pike counties: 606-433-7711 (Post 9)
Jackson, Owsley, or Lee counties: 859-623-2404 (Post 7)
Wolfe or Morgan counties: 606-784-4127 (Post 8)
Harlan County: 606-573-3131 (Post 10)

The Kentucky Sate Police says you can also report someone missing by sending an email to ksppubaff@ky.gov. It says the message will be forwarded to the respective Post handling reports for each county.

Here is the information you should include, according to the KSP:

  • Your name (first, last)
  • Your phone number
  • Missing loved ones name (first, last)
  • Missing loved ones county of residence
  • Missing loved ones description (gender, age, race, etc.)
  • Missing loved ones home address, and phone number (if known).

Find more information about each KSP Post here.

Some eastern Kentucky counties remain under flash flood warning

Parts of eastern Kentucky remain under a flash flood warning through Friday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. An additional 1 to 3 inches of rain is possible throughout the day, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

Nearly 300 people have already been rescued from flood waters, Gov. Andy Beshear said. About 24,000 are still without power, according to the governor.

At least 16 people have died, with deaths reported in four counties, the governor said. Some of those counties are still under Friday’s flash flood warning.

The governor had planned to take an aerial tour of Hazard, Kentucky, but bad weather prevented that.

“Just that weather should remind us: This isn’t over,” Beshear said.

“The water hasn’t crested in some areas, and won’t until tomorrow,” he said.

How to help the victims of Kentucky's catastrophic flooding

aastrophic flooding in portions of eastern Kentucky has killed at least 16 people and could leave hundreds without homes. Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll is expected to rise and the destruction is far from over.

Heavy rains and floodwaters took residents by surprise overnight Wednesday with some houses completely lost to the waters in less than an hour. More than 9 inches of rain fell in some areas of eastern Kentucky and more is expected in the coming days.

Beshear has set-up the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund to help those impacted.

Several organizations are in the affected areas providing assistance. You can donate to help here.

Storm "totally annihilated" infrastructure in Perry County, sheriff says

Perry County, Kentucky, Sheriff Joe Engle told CNN that an area of his county is completely isolated and state highways have been washed out from flooding.

“There is a big swath of the county that’s totally isolated, the state highways are just totally gone,” he said.   

The storm “totally annihilated” the infrastructure, Engle said. “Water, telephone, internet, electricity, all the basic roads — all the basic things you would build a community around — have just disappeared.” 

He said the community is pitching in and helping each other, “because we don’t have the resources to handle this.” 

Engle said the first confirmed death in his county from flooding was his great aunt.

The sheriff said he received no warnings before the worst of the storm hit. 

“They said we’re expecting 4-5 inches of rain; we’re used to that around here, but no warning whatsoever,” he said.  

“I was in bed asleep, 12 or 1 o’clock in the morning and I found out when the coroner called me and said, ‘if you need any help, call me,’ and I said ‘help with what?’ He said, ‘it’s a disaster out there,’” Engle to CNN. 

“There was no warnings. People asleep in mobile homes near this water… and caught in their sleep and just washed away,” Engle said.

The National Weather Service said it issued a flash flood watch about 30 hours before the flooding began. The first flash warning was issued for northern Perry County at 10:41 p.m. ET. The second flash flood warning was issued at 11:23 p.m. ET for northern and central Perry County.

The National Weather Service said four wireless emergency alerts were broadcast to cell phones in the threat area, starting at 12:05 a.m. ET. The warnings were upgraded to include a catastrophic threat.

Update: This post has been updated to include a statement from the National Weather Service.

Fire officials from town hit by 2021 tornado are traveling to eastern Kentucky to help

A fire chief and others from Mayfield, Kentucky — which was ravaged by a tornado in 2021 — are driving to the eastern part of the state to assist in flood response efforts, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

Beshear, who appeared emotional at a briefing on Friday, said he received a call from Mayfield Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan, who told him that Fire Chief Jeremy Creason is driving to eastern Kentucky in an ambulance filled with equipment to help aid in efforts. 

Beshear said he spoke with Creason the night the tornado ripped through Mayfied in December 2021.

“I was talking to him the night the tornado was going through,” Beshear said. “His folks were out not knowing if they lost their houses or not. That’s the guy that still is rebuilding. They lost their fire station. Think about the amount of work we’re still doing in Mayfield.”

“This Commonwealth was there for them when they were hit by the unimaginable, and they’re going to be there for the people of eastern Kentucky who are facing the same,” Beshear said.

Kentucky's lieutenant governor says areas impacted by flooding have a long road to recovery

Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman said she appreciates President Biden’s swift response in approving a disaster declaration to help eastern Kentucky after this week’s devastating floods.

“We have 17 counties that have been significantly impacted … and so by declaring a state of emergency, we are going to be able to help – not just now for rescue and recovery missions, but also in the long run as we work to rebuild,” she said.  

Coleman said she grieves with those who have lost everything. “I cannot imagine looking for family members, especially children and elderly,” she said. 

Coleman said while communications have been heavily impacted, people are getting in touch with each other in “organic” ways, with “neighbors reaching out to neighbors, utilizing social media, and just texting, calling to check on family members.” 

Systems are being put in place for how to continue rescue operations, report missing people and provide shelter for those who need it, she said.  

Coleman said Kentucky’s biggest need is water and cleaning supplies for the counties most impacted. 

Hundreds of people rescued from Kentucky floodwaters, governor says

Members of the Morehead Fire Department conduct search and rescue operations on July 28, in Jackson, Kentucky.

Nearly 300 people have been rescued following catastrophic flooding in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday.

“There have been over 294 civilians rescued through these operations,” he said. “That number is actually pretty low, because I know we’re way over 100 rescues just from air operations, just from our incredible National Guard.”

Dozens of roads are blocked due to flooding and damage, Beshear said.

“Crews are still hard at work clearing as much mud and debris as they can,” Beshear said. 

About 24,000 people are still without power, according to the governor.

“This is a huge natural disaster. Understand, it’s going to do this,” he said. “If you don’t have power, we’re gonna get it up and running.”

Kentucky flooding death toll climbs to 16, including 2 children, governor says

At least 16 people have died following devastating flooding in Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday. 

“It’s gonna get a lot higher,” the governor said at a briefing. 

Deaths have been reported in four counties, according to Beshear.

  • Knott County: 11 dead, including a 63-year-old man, 65-year-old female and two children, the governor said. 
  • Perry County: An 81-year-old woman also died.
  • Letcher County: A 79-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman have died.
  • Clay County: Two fatalities were reported, including a 76-year-old woman.

“I want to thank coroners from all over Kentucky that are pitching in to help as well as our National Guard that is transporting bodies as we find them so that we can identify them,” Beshear said. 

“To all the families that know you’ve already sustained a loss, we’re going to support you, we’re going to be here for you — not just today, but tomorrow and in the weeks and then in the years to come,” the governor said.

The climate crisis is driving more intense flooding. Here's how.

Kentucky was one of several states, including Missouri and Arizona, that experienced severe flooding on Thursday amid increasingly extreme weather events that are amplified by the climate crisis.

In St. Louis, record-breaking rainfall at the beginning of the week triggered dangerous flash floods that have continued for days and left at least one person dead.

As global temperatures climb, the atmosphere is able to hold more and more water, making water vapor more abundantly available to fall as rain.

Rainfall over land has become more intense since the 1980s, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report’s authors say human influence is the main driver.

Human-caused fossil fuel emissions have warmed the planet a little more than 1 degree Celsius, on average, with more intense warming over land areas. Scientists are increasingly confident in the role that the climate crisis plays in extreme weather, and have warned that these events will become more intense and more dangerous with every fraction of a degree of warming.

Local agencies are "fixed on search and rescue right now," official says

Members of a rescue team assist a family out of a boat on July 28, in Quicksand, Kentucky.

Jerry Stacy, the emergency management director for Perry County in Kentucky, said the flooding in his area is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”

“We’re in a very fluid situation, but just responding to situations as they come. It’s been very difficult, like the governor said, to even respond to some of these situations. The water was just unlike anything we’ve ever seen or even thought was possible,” he told CNN.

Local agencies are all solely “fixed on search and rescue right now,” he said.   

“We had a lot of rescues via helicopter and just some very strenuous situations,” Stacy said.  

“It’s been difficult to respond,” he said. “We’re working hard to rescue as many people as we can.” 

“Anybody that wants to volunteer can,” he said. Rescue efforts are being coordinating out of the National Guard Armory in Perry County, Stacy said. 

City of Hazard mayor says "devastating" flooding has destroyed homes and made bridges impassable

Kermit Clemons helps his ex-wife Lana Clemons retrieve family items in Hazard, Kentucky, on Thursday, July 28.

Hazard, Kentucky, Mayor Donald “Happy” Mobelini told CNN on Friday morning that “today will be the sad day” as historic flash flooding claimed at least 15 lives in the state.  

“It’s all sad … but this is the first time I remember that there’s been a loss of life, and at this point we don’t know what that looks like,” the mayor told CNN. 

The city of Hazard is in Perry County, which reported at least two deaths from the flooding on Friday.  

“People’s houses have been flooded that have lived there for 50, 75 years … no water has ever been close to them, and the water, that’s how fast it came up and how powerful it was,” Mobelini said.

The mayor said residents and officials are “so overwhelmed, we don’t really know what to ask for.”

“In downtown Hazard, we don’t really have a ton of property damage here. But in the outlying areas, it’s devastating,” he said. 

The mayor told CNN that seven of the city’s nine bridges are impassable. “That’s unheard of,” he said.  

The National Guard and local agencies continue to rescue people from the floodwaters.  

Mobelini said those who were rescued were taken to an airport and then to a shelter.

The mayor told CNN that when he went to sleep on Thursday night, a bus was picking up 50 people from the airport. No official number on the number of those rescued has been provided.  

Biden approves Kentucky disaster declaration

President Biden approved a disaster declaration for Kentucky amid deadly flooding, according to a statement from the White House.

“Federal funding is available to commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in the counties of Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike, and Wolfe,” according to the statement.

“Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire commonwealth,” the statement added.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has named Brett H. Howard as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas, the statement said. 

North Fork Kentucky River crests in Jackson, setting new record

The North Fork Kentucky River gauge, located in Jackson, Kentucky, crested around 2:30 a.m. ET this morning at 43.47 feet, setting a new record.

The previous record crest was 43.10 feet, set on Feb. 4, 1939. Water levels are still in major flood stage but are forecast to gradually decrease over the next 24 to 48 hours. The current forecast has the river at this location dropping to moderate flood stage by tonight and below flood levels by Saturday evening.

A flood warning is in effect until noon ET for portions of Floyd, Knott, Letcher and Pike counties, according to the National Weather Service office in Jackson. 

Jackson is downstream of the hardest-hit flood areas from earlier this week. 

Rain and thunderstorms will gradually push out of eastern Kentucky by this evening and a break in the rain is forecast on Saturday. The next round of heavy rain is forecast to arrive Sunday into Monday, which could re-aggravate river flooding across the area into next week. 

Over 24,000 customers are without power in Kentucky

As of Friday morning, there are more than 24,000 customers who do not have power in Kentucky, according to poweroutage.us.

The hardest-hit areas include Letcher and Knott counties, with over 12,000 and 8,000 outages, respectively.

As least 15 dead from flooding in eastern Kentucky

etucky Gov. Andy Beshear told CNN on Wednesday that 15 people have died due to flooding in the eastern part of his state, and that number is expected to double.

He said the toll includes children.

“There’s going to be multiple families that we’ve lost,” Beshear told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “Kids that won’t get the opportunity to grow up and experience so much that we have.”

“This is so deadly, and it hit so hard, and it hit in the middle of the night,” the governor said, adding that although eastern Kentucky often floods, “we’ve never seen something like this.”

Beshear said that hundreds of Kentuckians have lost everything they have. 

He said that homes were “completely swept away in the middle of the night possibly while they were sleeping.”

Rescuers are still unable to get to people who are trapped due to roads being washed out and covered in water, he added.

“There’s so much water, the current is so strong, it’s not safe for some of the water rescues that we need to do,” he said. 

Search-and-rescue efforts will continue today and into tomorrow, Beshear said. 

The National Guard from multiple states is assisting rescue efforts. According to the governor, 50 aerial rescues and hundreds of boat rescues have been made. 

“I know we’re strong. I know we’ll band together. In Kentucky, we open our homes and our hearts to each other, and that’s what we’re doing right now,” he said. 

Beshear said it could take a year to rebuild.