State of Emergency Declared as Floods in Kentucky Leave 2 Dead and Several Missing

Update, 16 July 2015: Associated Press are reporting that the body of a third victim has been found in a mobile home park in Johnson County, close to where one of the other victims was found on Tuesday.  The coroner in Johnson County has confirmed that a third body has been found, saying the cause of death was drowning. At least 6 people are believed to be still missing as rescue teams continue searching through the affected area.

Original Report

Parts of the Eastern Kentucky region were hit by consecutive storms and torrential rainfall between Monday 13 July and late Tuesday 14 July, 2015.

According to the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM), numerous counties were impacted by Monday’s storms that caused flash flooding. Areas reported with the heaviest damage include Johnson and Rowan counties. Some reports claim that at least 150 homes have been damaged in the floods in Johnson County and around 60 homes in Rowan county.

In Johnson County, one fatality was reported on Monday, 13 July, and state and local rescue workers there continue to search for others who are missing or unaccounted for. The victim died when his vehicle stalled in floodwaters, stepped out of the vehicle and was pulled in by the rising water. Another fatality has since been reported after a woman was found dead on Tuesday 14 July 2015 among debris from mobile homes destroyed by the flood waters.

The number of missing is as yet unclear as emergency workers continue to search for those who might be trapped in their homes. At least 50 rescues had been performed in the past 24 hours, Johnson County officials said.

In Rowan County, homes were also damaged by floods, and minor injuries were reported. Flood damage and rescues were also reported in Jefferson county. Kentucky Power reported 19,000 people still without power in eastern Kentucky.

The Kentucky National Guard, KYEM and Red Cross officials are on the ground in Johnson County and will continue to monitor areas statewide for further reports of damage. Shelters are in place in Rowan, Johnson and Jefferson counties.

Governor Declares State of Emergency

Yesterday, Governor Steve Beshear, declared a state of emergency to allow local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in public safety and recovery efforts.

“The declaration is a part of the process to identify what assistance is needed in these counties because of the storms,” Gov. Beshear said. “We will work with our local and federal partners to measure damage and make sure each community has access to appropriate resources.”

The Governor has instructed KYEM to continue conversations with FEMA officials to ensure Kentucky has every form of assistance necessary to recover from these storms.

This is the second time in the space of 4 months that the Kentucky Governor has declared a state of emergency.  In early April torrential rain and flash floods caused widespread damage across several counties in Kentucky, prompting the Governor to act.  At the time, the National weather Service said that 5.64 inches (143 mm) of rain fell in Louisville on 03 April 2015 and Lexington saw 5.17 inches (131mm) of rain.

Flood Warnings

With the threat of more severe weather throughout Kentucky, Gov. Beshear asked Kentuckians to monitor the weather and exercise caution. Gov. Beshear and state officials reminded drivers that” it is important to check travel routes in affected counties prior to getting on the road. Many roads are covered in water, and some have washed out entirely”.

Earlier today, 15 July 2015, National Weather Service at Jackson, Kentucky, issued flood warnings for the South Fork Kentucky River at Booneville and the Kentucky River at Heidelberg and Ravenna.

NWS Jackson also issued a flood warning for areas of southern and south-eastern Kentucky, including Laurel County, Wayne County, Pulaski County, Knox County, Mccreary County, Whitley County and Bell County .

In their statement, NWS Jackson said:

“Ongoing flooding was occurring across the area as runoff makes its way into larger creeks and streams. Heavy rainfall has exited. However, those that live by larger creeks and streams should be aware of additional rises through the overnight. Flood waters will gradually recede Wednesday morning”.

Rainfall

Johnson County emergency management officials said that four inches of rain fell in about an hour Monday night.

On 14 July, 3.04 inches (77.21 mm) of rain fell in Jackson, beating the previous record for that day of 2.28 inches (57.91 mm) set on 14 July, 2000. Jackson has seen 7.52 inches (191 mm) so far this month, which is over 5 inches (127 mm) more than normal, according to NWS.