A family trapped in their home, standing on the counters unable to reach higher ground as floodwater continues to rise. People screaming as the road falls away beneath them. A couple who fled their house now desperately scooping water out of a boat with a hole in it.

These were just some of the horrific scenes relayed to 911 dispatchers as southeastern Kentucky suffered torrential downpours on Wednesday night that turned into a historic and catastrophic flash flooding emergency on Thursday.

At least four people have died and Gov. Andy Beshear warned that more bodies are expected to be discovered as waters recede. Hundreds of locals remain stranded and many were left without a roof over their heads after houses literally washed away.

“Just received a call… where the road just fell off,” a dispatcher said in one call shared by local network WHAS11. “[The caller] said a vehicle was driving by and went straight off the roadway into the water. She could hear people down there screaming. She said the road was falling off as I was talking to her.”

Beshear said there were two deaths in Perry County, including an 81-year-old woman, and a third in Knott County. The Knott County coroner later confirmed a second death in the county, where multiple people are still unaccounted for.

At least one of those victims drowned, and the severe flooding made the body recovery effort that much harder, Perry County Sheriff Joe Engle told the Lexington Herald Leader.

“We are having a very difficult time getting to people,” he said. “Roads are blocked by trees, washed away completely or covered with water. It is now physically impossible to get to some people.”

Beshear warned that he expected the death toll to rise to double digits—“something we rarely see,” he said—after the state received about 8 to 12 inches of rain Thursday.

“It has been a tough night and maybe an even tougher morning for so many of our residents,” Beshear said at a Thursday morning news conference. “We are currently experiencing one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history.”

Roads have been completely submerged in the worst affected counties with terrifying footage showing houses being washed away. Beshear said the Kentucky National Guard has had to rescue people from trees and rooftops.

More than 25,000 are without power, he said, and in Breathitt County, officials had to open a courthouse and a school as shelters.

“It’s the worst we’ve had in quite a while,” Breathitt County Emergency Management Director Chris Friley told WDRB. “It’s county-wide again. There’s several spots that are still not accessible to rescue crews.”

“We are dealing with a catastrophic and historic flash flooding situation in parts of the region,” WYMT news director Steve Hensley said, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “I’ve never seen water come off the hill behind my house like this. There are people trapped and homes and roads flooded… I pray nobody has lost their life. I’m afraid the devastation we will see after daybreak will be significant.”

A Thursday morning tweet from the National Weather Service’s office in Jackson cautioned that flood emergencies were still in place for areas in Breathitt, Perry, Owsley, Knott, Clay, and Letcher counties.

“More heavy rain is occurring over these areas,” the tweet read. “DO NOT venture out if you live in these areas. This is a VERY DANGEROUS situation.”

Beshear said the state expects the “massive property damage” to take years to rebuild.

“Hundreds will lose their homes, and this is going to be yet another event that is going to take not months, but likely years for many families to rebuild and recover from,” he said.

He added that the state will launch a relief fund for victims called the Team Eastern Kentucky Flooding Relief Fund. He also said the state should invest in more flood resiliency to better prepare for future disasters.



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