Deadly flooding in eastern Kentucky

By Adrienne Vogt

Updated 3:58 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022
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3:51 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

Our live coverage has ended for the day. Follow the latest news on the Kentucky flooding here.

3:35 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

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

From CNN's Angela Fritz

Aerial view of homes submerged under flood waters in Jackson, Kentucky, on July 28.
Aerial view of homes submerged under flood waters in Jackson, Kentucky, on July 28. (Leandro Lozada/AFP/Getty Images)

Kentucky was one of several states, including Missouri and Arizona, that experienced severe flooding this week 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.

3:16 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

Kentucky governor says 15 emergency shelters are active, FEMA is providing water distribution

From CNN’s Raja Razek

Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted as members of her community clean the debris from their flood ravaged homes at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., on Saturday, July 30.
Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted as members of her community clean the debris from their flood ravaged homes at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., on Saturday, July 30. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news conference on Saturday that while he does not yet have a number on the cost of the loss in the region affected by flooding, it will be significant.

"[I] can't imagine that it is not going to be in the tens if not the hundreds of millions of dollars, but we're just not there yet still being in the search and rescue," Beshear said.

When discussing the relief fund to help those impacted by the flooding, he said that donations are close to $700,000. 

"As of today, 5,673 donations for $684,688.09," Beshear said. 

In the news conference, he also announced that funerals will be paid for, as it is the "least we can do to be there with these folks in an incredibly difficult time."

"I don't want people to have to go through a process of reimbursement to have to apply," he said. "The least that we ought to be able to do is grieve together. We'll work with the coroners and the Department of Public Health to directly identify the families of those we've lost and work directly with them on these expenses."

Currently, there are 15 emergency shelters that are active, according to the governor. 

The governor also discussed the Federal Emergency Management Agency assisting with "really important" water distribution, as water is limited or out in several counties.

"Three drinking water systems are totally out of operation at the moment," he said. 

FEMA is providing the state with 18 tractor-trailer truck loads of water, according to the governor.

In addition, at least 10 bridges are closed in Knott, Letcher, Perry and Pike counties, he said, adding that a "full assessment can't be done until the water further recedes."  

The governor reiterated that "this is still an active search and rescue operation. We have not moved into a rebuilding phase and won't be in one for several days, if not potentially several weeks."

"Our goal today is to get as many people to safety as possible and as people in these areas are looking at the next couple of days, make a plan for Sunday afternoon through Monday when the storms leave. Make sure you are in a safe place. I don't want to lose one more person," he said. 

3:06 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

Kentucky resident and therapist says impact of flooding on mental health will be "significant"

From CNN’s Sara Smart

For 44 years, Frances Everage has been a resident of Hazard, Kentucky, but she’s “never seen anything like” the flooding this week, she told CNN.

Everage said she was fortunate to be out of the flood zone, but her son and friends suffered from damage to their homes and livelihood.

“It’s kind of like a war zone here,” Everage said. “I keep hearing people say that, but it’s true.”

Some of Everage’s friends lost their farms completely, including crops, barns and equipment, she said.

Frances Everage took photos at her friends farm, house and art studio showing the aftermath of flooding.
Frances Everage took photos at her friends farm, house and art studio showing the aftermath of flooding. (Courtesy Frances Everage)

Not only has the flooding caused physical damage, Everage said, but it will have am impact on mental health as well. She has been a therapist for eight years in the area and is doing what she can to help the community cope.

“I’m sure there is going to be PTSD and a long-term impact on mental health,” Everage said. “A sense of safety has been taken away from a lot of children.”

While she’s been helping friends and neighbors with the cleanup process, she also wants to offer emotional support to those that need it.

“When you put your blood, sweat and tears into something and then see it ripped away in front of your eyes, there’s going to be a grieving process.” Everage said. “This community will rebuild and we will be OK, but the impact on mental health is going to be significant.”

Frances Everage took photos at her friends farm, house and art studio showing the aftermath of flooding.
Frances Everage took photos at her friends farm, house and art studio showing the aftermath of flooding. (Courtesy Frances Everage)

CNN’s Andy Rose and Lauren Lee contributed reporting to this post.

3:58 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

Eastern Kentucky could get more rain heading into next week as rescue and cleanup efforts continue

Lexington Firefighters conduct search and rescue in Lost Creek, Kentucky on July 29.
Lexington Firefighters conduct search and rescue in Lost Creek, Kentucky on July 29. (Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Those cleaning up from heavy flooding in eastern Kentucky are getting a respite from rain today, but Sunday afternoon will bring another chance of showers.

Rain is possible Sunday into Monday, when there is a slight risk of excessive rain over the region, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

"Area rivers and streams will continue to run high as a result of the heavy rain of the past few days," according to the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky.

"Showers and thunderstorms are possible at times Sunday through Thursday. Heavy rainfall may occur, especially on Sunday and Monday which could lead to localized flash flooding. Excess rainfall may also contribute to additional river flooding," it added.

"It's not just eastern Kentucky," according to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar. "You have cities like Memphis, Nashville, even stretching over toward Charlotte, North Carolina, that also have the potential for some flooding because of the amount of rain we expect. Most areas likely to pick up one to three inches. But there will be a couple of isolated spots here where you're talking four to six. Four to six alone can trigger flooding concerns ... in addition to when you're talking about the ground already being saturated."

"The ground is saturated; it will not take much to continue flooding or even trigger new flooding in some of these areas," according to Chinchar.  

A flood watch is in effect through Monday morning for parts of southern and eastern Kentucky, according to the National Weather Service. The watch area includes places impacted by recent flooding, including the city of Hazard.

Periods of showers and thunderstorms are expected across the watch area, resulting in rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour. This will cause creeks, rivers and streams to rise out of their banks and flood.

According to the NWS, “areas that see repeated rounds of thunderstorm activity will be most susceptible to flash flooding.”

In a news conference on Saturday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also outlined the current rain risk.

"For right now, the forecast looks like counties below the Mountain Parkway, another inch to possibly two inches, which could be rough. That is expected to go through parts of Monday and then clear out," he said. "The challenge after that, it's going to get really hot as we move in through the week."

CNN's Gene Norman contributed reporting to this post.

2:07 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

Beshear says a final death count from flooding may not be known "for weeks to come"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt and Raja Razek

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks with CNN on Saturday.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks with CNN on Saturday. (CNN)

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said there could be "many more" deaths due to the devastating flooding in the eastern part of the state.

"It's going to get worse. And I think that we will be updating it, maybe even for weeks to come. ... There are still so many people unaccounted for. And in this area, it's going to be a hard task to get a firm number of folks unaccounted for," he told CNN in an interview.

At least 25 people have died from the floods so far, Beshear said earlier on Saturday.

In a briefing later in the afternoon, Beshear outlined the death toll by county: four in Breathitt County, two in Clay County, 14 in Knott County, two in Letcher County and three in Perry County.

Beshear noted during the news conference that authorities now believe "there are only four children in this group and not six."

"The original two children that were reported to us have turned out to be adults now," he said. "Those are still two people that have been lost and we grieve for them, but wanted to make sure we got our most recent information out." 

He said it is forecast to rain again later on Sunday, so rescue teams are moving as fast as possible.

"The water is still high in some counties. It's crested in most, but not all. Water systems overwhelmed, so either no water or water that's not safe that you have to boil. Think about restrooms out in entire counties. We have one hospital that doesn't have water. So, real challenges out there. And we're still in this thing. Even though it's stopped raining — and thank God it's stopped raining — we're still in the search and rescue mode," Beshear told CNN.

"For right now, the forecast looks like counties below the Mountain Parkway, another inch to possibly two inches, which could be rough. That is expected to go through parts of Monday and then clear out," he added in the briefing. "The challenge after that, it's going to get really hot as we move in through the week."

National Guard units from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia have made more than 660 air rescues, and there have been over 600 water rescues, Beshear told CNN.

Rescuers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife are also at the forefront of recovery efforts, he said. 

"They've had to ultimately gather the bodies more than just about anybody else," Beshear said. "The mission has been especially challenging and what they are experiencing firsthand is tremendously stressful and difficult."  

Even as search and rescue operations continue, the governor noted that officials are already making preparations to assist displaced people.

"To everyone in eastern Kentucky, we are going to be there for you today and in the weeks, months, and years ahead. We will get through this together," Beshear said in a tweet Saturday.

"This is a type of flood that even an area that sees flooding has never seen in our lifetime," Beshear told CNN after returning from an aerial tour of flooding in Breathitt County on Friday. 

1:55 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

How to help the victims of Kentucky's catastrophic flooding

Bonnie Combs hugs her granddaughter Adelynn Bowling as they watch her property become submerged on July 28 in Jackson, Kentucky.
Bonnie Combs hugs her granddaughter Adelynn Bowling as they watch her property become submerged on July 28 in Jackson, Kentucky. (Timothy D. Easley/AP)

Flooding in portions of eastern Kentucky has killed at least 25 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.

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.

12:57 p.m. ET, July 30, 2022

Kentucky man says he waded through chest-deep water to find his grandfather

Clay Nickles, a resident of Neon, Kentucky, said his town is banding together as the cleanup effort from devastating flooding continues.

His house was damaged in the storm, and he said during a CNN interview from his car that trees are currently being cut off of it.

Nickles said he woke up on Thursday morning "to a terribly loud banging sound on what we thought was someone knocking on the door. The mountain behind our house had slid off, and it was rocks and boulders crashing into the house. So we got out of there quickly."

He said there was no cell reception, so he and his wife McKenzie had to try to find their family in the area — at one point wading through chest-deep water to find his grandfather. While their whole family is accounted for, he said some neighbors are still missing.

is coming together as the cleanup effort continues.

"If you think of Mayberry with ['The Andy Griffith Show'], it's a close-knit community. Everybody, whether they're family or not, is like family. In an event like this, typically if one or two people get devastated, everybody joins in to help. And in this situation, everyone is devastated, everyone has been demolished by this," he said.

"Mountain people have a lot of heart," he said.

11:13 a.m. ET, July 30, 2022

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.