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More rain, more bodies in flooded Kentucky mountain towns

Posted at 5:59 PM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 18:38:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for in Kentucky following last week's floods.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the death toll rose to 35 after one of the nation’s poorest regions was swamped by nearly a foot of rain.

The water poured down hillsides and into valleys and hollows, engulfing entire towns. Mudslides marooned some people on steep slopes.

TeresaReynold
Teresa Reynolds sits exhausted as members of her community clean the debris from their flood-ravaged homes in Ogden Hollar at Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Linda Rainey, the Red Cross’s Atlantic Division Disaster Spiritual Care Adviser, spoke to CBS 6 via Zoom from Whitesburg, Kentucky.

"We saw huge trees upended, and on the banks of the river that had now gone down. We saw school buses that had been lifted off the road,” she said. “We saw, actually, houses that had been moved off their foundations and down the river. We have gotten emergency responders, saying, before we go to be careful where you are deploying, to stay out of certain areas, because we don’t want to be in the midst of all that’s going on. So we are in the disaster as we speak.”

This weekend, seven volunteers from Richmond traveled to Kentucky to volunteer, offering food and supplies, medical care, and mental health care.

Severe Weather Appalachia
Volunteers from the local mennonite community clean flood damaged property from a house at Ogden Hollar in Hindman, Ky., Saturday, July 30, 2022.

“These people left everything and they’ve lost everything. They left their medications behind. Today a person said, ‘I need a nebulizer. I need my diabetes medication, I need basic medications,’” Rainey said.

Rainey said in her role as a spiritual care advisor, she’s helped victims with their mental health.

“They just need somebody to talk to and listen to them tell their stories and just be here to say, ‘I understand the trauma you’re going through.’ It’s a whole mind, body, and physical need as well, which is what we do with Red Cross. It’s just not just, ‘Here’s a hot meal and a cot to sleep on.’”

As of now, Rainey’s team is working in two shelters now housing around 70 people. Rainey said the Red Cross is requesting more volunteers, particularly spiritual care volunteers that may be able to provide mental health support.

Severe Weather Appalachia
Phillip Michael Caudill holds his 4-year-old son Connor outside their temporary room at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, Ky., on Saturday, July 30, 2022.

More than 12,000 utility customers remained without power. At least 300 people were staying in shelters.

The floods were unleashed last week when 8 to 10 1/2 inches (20 to 27 centimeters) of rain fell in just 48 hours in parts of eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, and western Virginia.

The disaster was the latest in a string of catastrophic deluges that have pounded parts of the U.S. this summer, including St. Louis. Scientists warn that climate change is making such events more common.

Meanwhile, nighttime curfews were declared in response to reports of looting in two of the devastated communities - Breathitt County and the nearby city of Hindman in Knott County.

Breathitt County declared a countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The only exceptions were for emergency vehicles, first responders, and people traveling for work.

“I hate to have to impose a curfew, but looting will absolutely not be tolerated. Our friends and neighbors have lost so much. We cannot stand by and allow them to lose what they have left,” County Attorney Brendon Miller said in a Facebook post.

Breathitt County Sheriff John Hollan said the curfew decision came after 18 reports of looting. He said people were stealing from private property where homes were damaged. No arrests have been made.

Hindman Mayor Tracy Neice also announced a sunset-to-sunrise curfew because of looting, television station WYMT reported. Both curfews will remain in place until further notice, officials said.

Last week’s flooding extended to parts of West Virginia and Virginia. President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to flooded counties, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency was helping.

Another relief effort came from the University of Kentucky’s men basketball team, which planned an open practice Tuesday at Rupp Arena and a charity telethon. Coach John Calipari said players approached him about the idea.

“The team and I are looking forward to doing what we can," Calipari said.

First responders from South Hill’s Fire Department are heading to Kentucky and Southwest Virginia to help with recovery efforts Wednesday morning. The department is requesting supplies including bottled water, paper towels, cleaning supplies, baby wipes, and diapers, as well as food and nonperishable items.

Supplies and donations can dropped off at the South Hill Volunteer Fire Department Monday and Tuesday until 8 p.m.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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