Infrastructure damage hinders Kentucky flood recovery

HINDMAN, Ky. (AP) — Damage to critical infrastructure and the arrival of more heavy rains hampered efforts Sunday to help Kentucky residents affected by recent massive floodingsaid Governor Andy Beshear.

As Appalachian residents tried to slowly rebuild their lives, flash flood warnings were issued for at least eight eastern Kentucky counties. The National Weather Service said radar indicated up to 10.2 centimeters of rain fell in some areas on Sunday, with more rain possible.

Beshear said the death toll rose to 28 on Sunday after last week’s storms, a number he expected to rise significantly and could take weeks to find all the victims.

Thirty-seven people were missing as search and rescue operations continued early Sunday, according to a daily briefing of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A dozen shelters were open for flood victims in Kentucky with 388 occupants.

Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the US National Guard Bureau, told The Associated Press that about 400 people were rescued by a National Guard helicopter. He estimated the guard rescued nearly 20 people by boat in hard-to-reach areas.

At a press conference in Knott County, Beshear praised the rapid arrival of FEMA trailers but noted the many challenges.

“We have dozens of bridges that are out of order, making it difficult for people to get to it, making it difficult to get water,” he said. “We have entire water systems that we are working hard to raise.”

Beshear said it will remain difficult, even a week from now, “to have a solid number on those counted.” It’s communication issues – it’s also not necessarily, in some of these areas, having an accurate number of how many people lived there in the first place.

The governor also spoke of the selflessness he saw among Kentucky residents suffering from the floods.

“A lot of people who have lost everything, but they’re not even getting property for themselves, they’re getting property for other people in their neighborhood, making sure their neighbors are okay,” Beshear said.

Among the survival stories that continue to emerge, a 17-year-old girl whose home in Whitesburg was flooded on Thursday put her dog in a plastic container and swam 70 yards to safety on the roof of a neighbour. Chloe Adams waited for hours until daylight before a parent in a kayak arrived and got them to safety, taking first her dog, Sandy, then the teenager.

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“My daughter is safe and whole tonight,” her father, Terry Adams, said in a Facebook post. “We lost everything today…everything but what matters most.”

On a cloudy morning in downtown Hindman, about 200 miles (322 kilometers) southeast of Louisville, a crew cleared debris piled up along storefronts. Nearby, a vehicle was perched upside down in Troublesome Creek, now back in its debris-strewn banks.

Workers worked non-stop on mud-covered sidewalks and roads.

“We’re going to be here unless there’s a deluge,” said Tom Jackson, one of the workers.

Jackson was with a team from Corbin, Kentucky, where he is the city’s recycling manager, about a two-hour drive from Hindman.

His crew worked all day Saturday, and the mud and debris was so thick they managed to clear an eighth of a mile of pavement. The water rolling down the hills had such force that it bent the road signs.

“I’ve never seen water like this,” Jackson said.

Attendance was down for the Sunday morning service at Hindman First Baptist Church. Parishioners who rarely miss a service were instead back home to take care of clean-up chores caused by floodwaters and mud.

Reverend Mike Caudill said his church stepped in to help the shocked community, serving meals and setting up tents for people to pick up cleaning and personal hygiene supplies.

Bins full of clothes and photos were piled on retired teacher Teresa Perry Reynolds’ porch, along with furniture too damaged to salvage.

“There are memories there,” she said of the family photos she and her husband were able to piece together.

Her husband’s wallet, lost as they escaped rapidly rising waters on Thursday to visit a neighbour, was later found.

“All I know is that I’m homeless and people are taking care of me,” she said.

Parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches (20 to 27 centimeters) in 48 hours. About 13,000 Kentucky utility customers were left without power on Sunday, poweroutage.us reported.

President Joe Biden has declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen counties in Kentucky.

Last week’s flooding spread to West Virginia, where Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six southern counties, and Virginia, where Governor Glenn Youngkin also issued an emergency declaration. emergency that allowed officials to mobilize resources in the flooded southwestern part of the state.

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Raby reported from Charleston, West Virginia. Associated Press writer Kevin McGill in New Orleans contributed to this report.

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