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Devastating—Eastern Kentucky flooding deadly and destructive

The scale and horrific deadly toll of devastating flash flooding in eastern Kentucky is still unfolding as rescue crews and emergency responders try to locate the missing and assess the destruction.

At least 19 people have been killed in the natural disaster, including four children, Governor Andy Beshear confirmed Friday afternoon.

“It means we’ve got at least six dead children, and that’s hard,” Beshear said. “It’s even harder for those families and those communities. So keep praying. There’s still a lot of people out there, still a lot of people unaccounted for. We’re going to do our best to find them.”

Gov. Andy Beshear surveys flooding disaster in eastern Kentucky. Photo: Commonwealth of Kentucky

President Biden declared a major disaster in Kentucky, ordering federal aid to supplement local recovery efforts in the areas affected by severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides beginning on Tuesday July 26 and continuing. The hardest hit counties included in the disaster declaration are Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike, and Wolfe.

Beshear and Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator, toured flood-stricken areas by helicopter Friday afternoon.

Criswell said she witnessed “true devastation” in eastern Kentucky.

“We saw many homes that are still inundated, that the water has not receded,” Criswell said. “I mean, we also saw homes I think that are going to have access issues for some time just because the roads are out and bridges are out. And so we know that there is definitely some significant impact to the communities that we just flew over.”

Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Photo: Commonwealth of Kentucky

Even as search and rescue efforts continue for dozens, if not hundreds of people who still remain unaccounted for on Friday evening, the long-term nature of the disaster is hitting home for countless people whose homes and belongings were destroyed in the floodwaters.

Helicopter view of eastern Kentucky flooding, July 29, 2022. Photo: Commonwealth of Kentucky

Meanwhile, emergency officials continue to urge caution as some rivers and streams are still cresting.

How to help:

  • Immediate relief:
    • Kentucky American Red Cross: Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • Long term relief: 
    • TeamEKYFloodReliefFund.ky.gov is the state-organized fund. Like the state fund organized to help tornado victims in Western Kentucky, these funds are intended to provide long-term relief to individuals directly impacted by the flooding in eastern Kentucky.

EASTERN KENTUCKY, Ky. (July 31, 2022) – Gov. Andy Beshear today updated Kentuckians on rescue and recovery efforts in flood-stricken eastern Kentucky and related deaths from the flooding. The Governor also announced the beginning of an application process for individual disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“We are still focused on meeting the immediate needs of providing food, water and shelter for thousands of our fellow Kentuckians who have been displaced by this catastrophic flood,” Gov. Beshear said. “At the same time, we have started on the long road to eventual recovery.”

The Governor toured the flood-damaged area today with stops in Hazard (Perry County), Leburn (Knott County), Hindman (Knott County) and Whitesburg (Letcher County). He said 359 survivors are being temporarily sheltered at 15 shelters and at two state parks and campgrounds. Shelter sites can be found at governor.ky.gov/FloodResources.

Death Toll Continues To Rise
Gov. Beshear announced today that the death toll from the devastating floods has now risen to 28. Deaths by county are as follows:

  • Breathitt County: 6
  • Clay County: 2
  • Knott County: 15, including 4 children
  • Letcher County: 2
  • Perry County: 3

Individual Assistance Available in Five Counties
Today, FEMA announced that renters and homeowners of Breathitt, Clay, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties who were affected by the severe storms, flooding and mudslides that began July 26 may apply for individual disaster assistance.

Gov. Beshear said he expects additional counties to qualify for individual assistance as FEMA teams continue to assess the damage: “I fully expect more to be added as was the process in responding to December’s tornadoes.”

Applications can be filed online at disasterassistance.gov, by calling 800-621-3362or by using the FEMA mobile app. If you use a relay service, such as video relay (VRS), captioned telephone or other service, give FEMA the number for that service. To learn more, see the full release.

The Governor said it will be important when applying for assistance to have some critical information in hand, including:

  • A current phone number where you can be contacted;
  • Your address at the time of the disaster and the address where you are now staying;
  • Your Social Security number;
  • A general list of damage and losses;
  • Banking information if you choose direct deposit; and
  • If insured, the policy number or the agent and/or the company name.

Survivors with homeowners, renter’s or flood insurance should file a claim as soon as possible. FEMA cannot duplicate benefits for losses covered by insurance. If your policy does not cover all your damage expenses, you may be eligible for federal assistance.

Take photos to document damage and begin cleanup and repairs to prevent further damage. Remember to keep receipts from all purchases related to the cleanup and repair.

In addition to multiple state and federal agencies, Missouri Task Force 1 has been activated by FEMA to assist with response.

“Once the team arrives at their destination, the task force will prepare for whatever mission they may be assigned,” the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management said in a statement. “These missions could include water rescues, wide area search, targeted searches or even humanitarian welfare checks.”

Travel trailers are being delivered and connected to utilities for emergency sheltering. Seventeen have been delivered to Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Floyd County with 13 more expected by the end of the day. One has been delivered to Mine Made Adventure Park in Knott County with five more expected. Information will be forthcoming for those who may be in need of these temporary shelters.

Missing Persons
Kentucky State Police is responding and actively searching for missing people.

  • If you wish to report a missing loved one in the counties of BreathittPerryKnottLetcher or Leslie counties, contact Post 13 Hazard at 606-435-6069.
  • If you wish to report a missing loved one in the counties of MagoffinJohnsonMartinFloyd, or Pike counties, contact Post 9 Pikeville at 606-433-7711.
  • If you wish to report a missing loved one in the counties of JacksonOwsley, or Lee counties, contact Post 7 Richmond at 859-623-2404.
  • If you wish to report a missing loved one in the counties of Wolfe or Morgan counties, contact Post 8 Morehead at 606-784-4127.
  • If you wish to report a missing loved one in Harlan County, contact Post 10 Harlan at 606-573-3131.
  • Please note phone lines are extremely busy right now. It may take a while to get through.
  • A command staging area has been established at the Hazard Armory for emergency personnel only. The public should not travel to the affected areas until emergency personnel gives the all-clear.

Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund
As of July 31 at 10 a.m. EDT, there have been 8,935 donations to the Team Eastern Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, totaling $1,121,426.80.

To donate, visit TeamEKYfloodrelieffund.ky.gov.

Water Outages

  • Twenty-two water systems have limited operations due to power outages and storm damage.
  • Approximately 27,000 service connections are without water.
  • Approximately 40,000 service connections are under a Boil Water Advisory.
  • Communication has been established with all impacted drinking water systems.
  • All drinking water systems are reporting to be operational.
  • Seventeen wastewater systems have limited operations, primarily due to flooded infrastructure and are experiencing discharges from portions of their systems.

Previous Updates
On Thursday, Gov. Beshear declared a State of Emergency due to severe flooding in eastern Kentucky. To learn more about the Governor’s initial response to Eastern Kentucky floods, see Thursday’s Team Kentucky Update release.

Early Friday morning, Gov. Beshear updated Kentuckians via video message on the historic flooding in Eastern Kentucky and his administration’s response.

To view the Governor’s full briefing and release from later Friday morning, click here.

Friday afternoon the Governor announced that President Biden had approved his request for a federal disaster declaration for 13 eastern Kentucky counties. To learn more about the federal declaration and to read additional updates on the response to the flooding, click here.

To learn more about the federal disaster declaration, see Friday’s release from the White House.

To see Saturday’s full release on the floods’ rising death toll, continued search and rescue efforts, the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, flood resources, FEMA assistance and more, click here.

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