Governor Andy Beshear pledged the support of the state of Kentucky in securing housing for residents affected by the floods and paying the funerals of the more than two dozen victims in anticipation of more heavy rains expected this week.
“The next few days will remain difficult, but I promise you that life will get better,” Beshear said at a news conference on Sunday. “We’ll get everyone stabilized and in some form of housing, and we’ll get the rubble and we’ll move on.”
At least 28 people have died after severe storms led to mudslides, landslides and record flooding, Beshear said. The dead include four children, siblings, ages two to eight.
As many as 37 people were missing, according to a daily Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing.
In addition, more flash floods were possible in parts of Appalachia on Sunday and Monday as the latest storms came through, the National Weather Service said. Precipitation rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour were possible in some of the same areas flooded last week.
According to FEMA, a dozen shelters were open for flood victims in Kentucky with 388 residents on Sunday.
‘Bodies for weeks’
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning, Beshear said he knows of “several additional bodies” and the death toll will continue to climb, with affected areas receiving between 8 and 10 1/2 inches of rain.
“With the water level we will find bodies for weeks, many of them swept hundreds of feet, maybe a quarter of a mile plus from where they were lost,” Beshear said.
In a YouTube video posted on Sundaythe governor said his staff was aware of “additional bodies recovered” but “were unable to confirm deaths at this time”.
At the press conference, Beshear said the region was facing a “moderate risk of excessive rain”, and that some areas could see flash flooding. Several counties remained under flood warnings and flood watches on Sunday and for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.
“It really hurts the morale of the people who have seen so much rain,” the governor said of the expected rain. “We hope, and we certainly don’t believe for the region, [that] it will cause even more massive flooding, but we have to be prepared,” he said.
Rescue officials are struggling to reach hard-hit areas, some of which are among the poorest in the country.
At the press conference, the governor was emotional as he described how poor cell phone service and underpowered population made it difficult to determine how many people were missing.
“I wish we had a fixed, real number of people who are missing,” he said.
The National Guard has conducted more than 1,000 rescues via airlifts, Beshear said.
Amid complaints that hotels, motels and shelters in the area are full, Beshear said at the news conference that the state government plans to work directly with hotels to fund rooms, and officials are setting up a shelter in Buckhorn Lake. State Resort Park.
“Our promise is that we will get everyone back on their feet – everyone, no matter how long it takes and whatever it takes,” Beshear said at the press conference.
The governor urged people to donate new clothes and drinking water and send money to the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fundwho he said will pay for the victims’ funerals.
“People should not have to go through months of repayment process when grieving a loved one,” the governor said. “No forms, no applications, we work directly with the funeral homes.”
FEMA announced on Friday that President Biden made a major disaster declaration, making federal aid available to the state.
On Saturday, Biden said he added individual assistance to that statement with the help of further aid to displaced families.
In addition, 80 FEMA employees are on site and the governor plans to ask for more, Perry County Judge Scott Alexander said at the news conference.
“This isn’t going to be an easy rebuild, but I’m here to tell you that the Commonwealth of Kentucky will stay with you every day until it’s completely rebuilt,” Beshear said.
‘A long process’
In the small community of Wayland, Phillip Michael Caudill was at work on Saturday clearing debris and recovering as much as possible from the home he shares with his wife and three children. The water had disappeared from the house, but left a mess, along with questions about what he and his family will do next.
“We just hope we can get some help,” says Caudill, who is currently staying with his family in Jenny Wiley State Park in a vacant room.
Caudill, a firefighter in the nearby Garrett community, went out around 1 a.m. Thursday but had to ask to leave around 3 a.m. so he could go home, where the water was rising rapidly.
“That made it so difficult for me,” he said. “Here I am, watching my house submerge in water and you have people begging for help. And I couldn’t help it,” Caudill said.
The water was knee-deep when he got home, and he had to wade through the yard to carry two of his kids to the car. He could barely close the door of his SUV as they left.
In Garrett on Saturday, flood-soaked sofas, tables and cushions piled up in yards along the foothills of the mountainous region as people worked to clear debris and shovel mud from driveways and roads under the now-blue sky.
Hubert Thomas, 60, and his cousin Harvey, 37, fled to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg late Wednesday night after floods destroyed their home in Pine Top. The two were able to rescue their dog, CJ, but fear the damage to the house is beyond repair. Hubert Thomas, a retired miner, said all his savings were invested in his house.
“I have nothing now,” he said.
Harvey Thomas, an EMT, said he fell asleep to the sound of light rain, and it wasn’t long before his uncle woke him up and warned him that the water was getting dangerously close to the house.
“It came in and it just got worse,” he said. “At one point we looked at the front door and mine and his cars played bumper cars, like bumper boats, right in the middle of our front yard.”
As for the future, Harvey Thomas said he doesn’t know, but he’s thankful he’s still alive.
“Mountain people are strong,” he said. “And like I said, it won’t be tomorrow, probably not next month, but I think everyone will be fine. It’s just going to be a long process.”