The death toll in Eastern Kentucky rose to 16 on Friday morning after torrential rains flooded the region, destroying hundreds of homes and wiping out entire communities.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, in a video posted to Twittersaid children were likely included in the death count and that the number is expected to grow to “probably more than double.”
“We know some of the loss will include children,” Beshear said. “We may have even lost entire families.”
Search and rescue teams, with the help of the National Guard, were searching for missing people Friday after record floods washed through the region. The governor declared a state of emergency.
More rain and storms were expected this weekend after over 6 inches of rain fell Wednesday night into Thursday. Meteorologist Brandon Bonds with the National Weather Service in Jackson said it won’t take much more rain to “cause even more damage.” A flood watch or warning was expected to stay in effect for many of the areas that saw the worst of the flooding.
‘Not seen the worst of it’:Death toll likely to rise in Eastern Kentucky flooding
Here’s what we know about the flooding, rescue efforts and more.
Death toll rises to 16
Jimmy Pollard, executive director of the Kentucky Coroners Association, confirmed the 16th death Friday morning to The Courier Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network.
The deaths occurred in Knott, Letcher, Clay and Perry counties, he said. Additional details were not yet available.
Beshear earlier Friday announced the death toll climbed overnight from eight to 15. A press briefing was planned for Friday morning.
Beshear on Friday morning said it would be “tough” to determine the number of people who are unaccounted for because cell service and electricity were out across the region.
More than 200 people have sought shelter, Beshear said. The National Guard has mobilized.
“In a word, this event is devastating, and I do believe it will end up being one of the most significant deadly floods that we have had in Kentucky in at least a very long time,” Beshear said Thursday.
On Friday morning, Beshear said the state completed hundreds of rescues, with about 50 air rescues and hundreds of boat rescues. The flooding has left over 23,000 Kentuckians without power and several counties without access to water, Beshear said.
While rain was reported in several areas around the state, the flooding took place in Eastern Kentucky, in counties near the border with Virginia and West Virginia.
Towns and cities reported having been hit the hardest are Hazard, Jackson, Garrett, Salyersville, Booneville, Whitesburg and the rest of Perry County.
The stretch of the Kentucky River in Jackson reached the highest it has ever been, at 43.2 feet, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson as of 6 am Friday. That mark broke a record set in 1939 when the height of the river reached 43.1 feet.
Beshear asked people who are able to contribute to donate items or funds. Donors should focus on water and cleaning supplies for now.
Organizations have begun to increased funds needed to send to those families hit hardest by the flooding.