The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Updated: Summer of weather anomalies continues as deadly floods ravage SE Kentucky

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ky floodsHeavy flooding is seen in eastern Kentucky this weekend. State of Kentucky/Office of Gov. Andy Beshear

Another round of severe flooding hits the Southern Appalachian region

UPDATED: The death toll from last week’s unprecedented flooding in Kentucky reached at least 29, as some areas contended with additional flooding over the weekend. Fifteen of those, including four children, died in Knott County, which is about 100 miles north of Kingsport.

Water service to nearly 67,000 connections has been affected, as well as 17 wastewater-treatment systems in eastern Kentucky, according to Gov. Andy Beshear’s office. 

“We are currently experiencing one of the worst, most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history. The situation is dynamic and ongoing,” Beshear said in a statement.

“What we are going to see coming out of this is massive property damage and we expect loss of life. Hundreds will lose their homes. And this will be yet another event that will take not months, but years, for our families to rebuild and recover from.”

The death toll in Kentucky now exceeds those killed in last summer’s Waverly, Tennessee floods. Twenty people died following 15 inches of rain in a day, which set Tennessee’s daily rainfall record.

The original story is below.

HAZARD A week after a 500-year-flood hit the Knoxville area, flooding rains in Southeast Kentucky inundated homes, commercial districts and killed at least eight people.

A flood warning continued into early Friday morning for affected counties, most notably Perry, where the North Fork of the Kentucky River overflowed its banks, leading to major damage along the waterway.

“This is likely to go down as one of the worst flash flood events to ever hit the state,” WKYT meteorologist Chris Bailey said on Twitter.

Anderson and Knox County were battered by 8 inches of rain within about six hours July 20-21, leading to flooding from Claxton and Clinton to Fort Sanders in downtown Knoxville. On July 12, an estimated 8 inches of rain fell in the Smoky Mountains, damaging at least one campground, roads, and trails, including Rainbow Falls Trail, which had recently been completely rehabilitated with help from a Trails Forever grant via Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

All water crossings on the trail were washed out, and roads and trails in the Greenbrier area remain closed or tightly controlled as the park service works to assess and repair flood damage. Subsequent rain last week caused even more damage there, and washed out a highly trafficked bridge in Sevier County on Jones Cove Road.

In the latest round of Appalachian flooding, the National Weather Service said that 10 inches of rain fell in the formerly coal-rich  Perry County, Kentucky area Wednesday into Thursday, destroying homes, schools and businesses and leaving high water stained with petroleum, sewage and other toxins coursing across the landscape.

The number of fatalities was expected to increase.

This story will be updated.

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