Floods unleashed by torrential rains in eastern Kentucky have killed at least 35 people, including four children, Gov. Andy Beshear said on Monday while warning that more dangerous weather is approaching the region.
Beshear, who has said he expects the death toll will rise further, verified five additional fatalities in an afternoon update after announcing a total of 30 confirmed deaths in the morning.
Authorities continued to work to rescue residents and provide food and shelter for thousands who have been displaced.
“It is really tough,” Beshear said of the weather forecast in a video posted to social media. “Isolated flash flooding and damaging wind are both possible.”
The National Weather Service forecasted several rounds of continuing showers and storms through Tuesday. The additional rainfall could also hamper rescue and recovery efforts.
Beshear, who declared a state emergency last week, said over the weekend that authorities would likely “be finding bodies for weeks” as teams fan out to more remote areas.
Days of heavy rainfall — described by Beshear as some of the worst in the state’s history — caused some homes in the hardest-hit areas to be swept away. Video clips posted online showed rescue teams guiding motorboats through residential and commercial areas searching for victims.
The Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team on Sunday published footage on Facebook of a helicopter airlifting an 83-year-old woman from a home to safety. Five people in total were trapped in an attic and rescued from the roof of the home, which was nearly submerged in water, the crew said.
At least 16 deaths were reported in Knott County, including at least four children.
One of those deaths was Eva Nicole “Nikki” Slone, a 50-year-old who ventured out in the storm on Thursday to check on an elderly friend, according to her daughter, the Lexington Herald Leader reported. Slone’s body was recovered the next day near home.
“My mom was a very caring woman,” Misty Franklin told the newspaper.
The floods were the second major disaster to strike Kentucky in seven months, following tornadoes that claimed nearly 80 lives in the western part of the state in December.
President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Kentucky on Friday, allowing federal funding to be allocated to the state.
Power lines were widely damaged, with more than 15,000 reports of outages on Monday morning, according to PowerOutage.US.