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Kentucky's governor warns residents to brace for more flooding

Volunteers from the local mennonite community carry tubfulls of debris from flood soaked houses for disposal at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Volunteers from the local mennonite community carry tubfulls of debris from flood soaked houses for disposal at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Updated July 31, 2022 at 7:23 PM ET

As parts of Kentucky continue to assess the damage from the past week's floods, Gov. Andy Beshear is warning residents of more rain and potential flooding to come through Monday morning.

"Next couple days are going to be hard," Beshear said in a statement posted to YouTube. "We've got rain and maybe even a lot of rain that's going to hit the same areas. Please pray for the people in these areas. And if you are in the areas that are going to get hit by rain, make sure you stay safe. Make sure you have a place that is higher ground. Go to a shelter. Just please, please be safe."

At least 28 people have been killed as a result of the flooding, but that number is most certainly higher. Beshear noted that officials are aware of additional bodies being recovered, but until they can confirm those deaths they are not including them in the total number of casualties.

The areas of eastern Kentucky where a lot of flooding occurred are hilly and mountainous, making it more difficult and time-consuming for rescue crews to get to and look through the damage. Beshear said it could be several weeks before all the victims are found and the death toll is finalized.

The National Weather Service put out a flood watch for portions of east central Kentucky, north central Kentucky, northwest Kentucky and south central Kentucky on Sunday where showers and thunderstorms are expected.

The weather organization warned that rainfall could come down at a rate of 1 to 2 inches an hour and that it would bring the threat of flash floods.

"You should monitor later forecasts and be alert for possible flood warnings," the NWS said. "Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop."

The threat of more flooding is concerning as hundreds of people have already been displaced from flooding earlier in the week.

Government officials are continuing to work on relief for the affected people. Many state parks have been opened to provide lodging for those whose houses have been damaged and destroyed, and Beshear said they were working on adding more space to those areas by providing travel trailers to help with lodging.

"We want to make sure we wrap our arms around our Eastern Kentucky brothers and sisters and make sure that they are OK," Beshear said.

In areas where water has receded, residents are busy salvaging what they can of their possessions, with wreckage scattered across roadways and yards filled with ruined furniture and clothing.

At least 13,000 people were without power as of Sunday evening, according to PowerOutage.us. Some of those power outages are contributing to water outages too. At least 22 water systems have limited operations due to power outages and storm damage, the state said on its website.

For some residents, flooding has become a regular part of life

Keith Bradley of Lost Creek, Ky., said the beauty of his small Appalachian town is why he stays, despite repeated flooding of his home.

His home was damaged by floods last year, and this year water engulfed it, forcing him, his wife and a neighbor to swim to higher ground.

"We're trying everything. We tried to, you know, motion the helicopters and boats. And there was people that was on rooftops and stuff," Bradley told WUKY.

Despite the struggle to get out, Bradley said he is thankful to be on dry ground with his group and their five pets after being rescued by two firefighters.

For those who are looking to help, the governor said water is "the number one key donation that you can provide," and directed donors to the state's websites.

Additionally, Beshear said donations to the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund will help and 100% will go to victims of the floods. Renters in some of the affected counties are now able to apply for individual disaster assistance from FEMA.

Flooding in Appalachia in the past week also affected western Virginia and southern West Virginia. Scientists say flooding is becoming more frequent and intense because of climate change.

WUKY's Karyn Czar contributed reporting. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.