Gov. Andy Beshear is expected to visit flood-devastated areas of eastern Kentucky on Sunday, after more than two dozen people were confirmed dead and rescue efforts continued.
As of Sunday, at least 26 people had died as a result of severe storms that caused record flash flooding as well as mudslides and landslides, Beshear said. In a YouTube video posted on Sunday, the governor said that his office was aware of additional bodies but could “not confirm those deaths at this time.”
“We want to make sure we wrap our arms around our eastern Kentucky brothers and sisters. The next couple days are going to be hard,” he said.
Beshear warned that more rain was expected in the upcoming days, and conditions could worsen.
Beshear had previously said six children were among the dead, but brought the number down to four during a press conference early Saturday afternoon after confirming two of the victims were actually adults.
“I’m worried we’re going to be finding bodies in weeks to come,” Beshear said. “Keep praying.”
Officials have not yet been able to get an accurate count of missing people as rescue crews struggle to get into hard-hit areas, some of them among the poorest places in the nation.
Making the task more difficult is the fact that many affected areas remain without cell service, limiting people’s ability to establish contact with affected loved ones, Beshear said.
More than 700 individuals have been rescued so far by helicopters and boats from the Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia National Guards as well as several other agencies aiding with rescue efforts, Beshear said.
“Our goal today is to get as many people to safety as possible,” he said, while also urging people in impacted areas to prepare for more rain in the coming days.
Flood warning alerts are expected to remain in place in parts of Kentucky until Sunday and Monday, according to the National Weather Service.
“It’s not fair it’s going to rain again,” Beshear said. “I don’t want to lose one more person.”
Just over the past two days, affected areas received between 8 and 10 1/2 inches of rain. Still, some waterways were not expected to crest until Saturday.
About 16,000 power customers remained without electricity Saturday morning, according to Kentucky Power.
Fifteen emergency shelters have already been established in the area to help anyone affected by the floods, Beshear said.
Federal disaster assistance has been made available to Kentucky after President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration, FEMA announced Friday.
On Saturday, Biden said he added Individual Assistance to the Major Disaster declaration in hopes of further helping displaced families.
Emergency personnel from FEMA will be providing 18 water trucks to help make up for the lack of water access in some areas as Kentucky is expected to endure high temperatures next week, Beshear said.
Due to the lack of power, 19 water systems are operating with a limited capacity, the governor said.
Nearly 27,000 connections are without water as of early Saturday afternoon, according to Beshear. About 29,000 other connections are receiving unsafe water that needs to be boiled before it’s consumed.
Beshear stressed authorities will likely remain in the recovery and rescue phase for several weeks, adding that they will have a better idea of damage estimates after flood waters dissipate.
Kalhan Rosenblatt and The Associated Press contributed.