Kentucky Flooding: State Braces for More Heavy Rain

More heavy rain was expected on Tuesday morning in Kentucky, potentially complicating efforts to rescue hundreds of people still unaccounted for days after severe flooding left at least 37 dead.

Nearly four million people across parts of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia were under a flood watch through the morning, when quick-moving storms were forecast to dump as much as two inches of rain per hour, according to the National Weather Service. A flood watch was in effect until 9 a.m. local time for portions of eastern Kentucky and until 8 a.m. for a region in West Virginia that includes Charleston, the state capital.

Since last week, the worst of the devastation has been concentrated in roughly a half-dozen counties in the Appalachian region in Kentucky’s southeast. Those communities have already been upended with severe damage to homes and families

Much of the same region was under a slight risk of excessive rainfall through the day Tuesday, while other parts of the Midwest and Deep South were under a marginal risk, the Weather Prediction Center said.

A thunderstorm moving southeast through western Kentucky late Monday had already produced 60-mile-an-hour wind gusts and hailstones the size of silver dollars, the Weather Service in Paducah said in an advisory.

The Weather Service predicted more heavy rain and high winds overnight as a cold front moved southeast toward the Central Appalachians from the Ohio Valley. It also warned that excessive runoff in places that had already seen recent heavy rainfall could potentially produce more “life-threatening flash flooding.”

“Not what we want to see!” Chris Bailey, a veteran meteorologist in Lexington, Ky., said of the forecast on Twitter. He warned that new precipitation could create “additional flooding issues” as storms moved from western to eastern Kentucky overnight.

The prospect of more floods would be the central concern overnight in eastern Kentucky, the part of the state hit hardest by last week’s flooding, Gov. Andy Beshear said in a Twitter thread late Monday.

That flooding, some of the worst in the state’s history, left at least 37 people dead, Mr. Beshear announced. He also said at a news briefing that there were “hundreds of unaccounted-for people, minimum,” and that rescue operations had been hampered by impassable roads and washed-out bridges.

As rainstorms blew through eastern Kentucky’s remote hills and valleys on Monday, rescue workers were still trying to move through areas where the floods, and the mudslides they unleashed, had destroyed infrastructure and cut off cellphone service.

More than 10,000 Kentucky households were without power as of early Tuesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us, which aggregates data from utility companies. And in some places, floodwaters had once again swallowed roads that had reopened to let emergency workers through after the initial flooding last week.

While linking climate change to a single flood event requires extensive analysis, most scientists agree that climate change is causing heavier rainfall in many storms.

Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.

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By Jon Doe