Aug 1, 2022 - Science

Kentucky faces heavy rains threat as flood death toll hits 28

People drop off goods for a local community member in Jackson, Kentucky, on July 31, 2022.
A local fire chief and his daughter drop off goods for a local community member in Jackson, Kentucky, on Sunday. Photo: Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

Kentucky's flood-related death toll rose to 28 as search and rescue efforts continued Sunday and forecasters warned the state and other parts of the Appalachia faced the risk of further flooding from heavy rains.

What's happening: Gov. Andy Beshear said Sunday he expected the death toll in eastern Kentucky to increase, as 37 people were unaccounted for Sunday.

  • 12 shelters were open with 388 occupants, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency briefing Sunday.
  • Beshear visited flood-damaged areas of Kentucky Sunday, stopping off at Hazard, Perry County; Leburn, Knott County; Hindman, Knott County and; Whitesburg, Letcher County.

What they're saying: "We are still focused on meeting the immediate needs of providing food, water and shelter for thousands of our fellow Kentuckians who have been displaced by this catastrophic flood," Beshear said in a statement. "At the same time, we have started on the long road to eventual recovery."

The big picture: "A lingering frontal boundary draped across the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley is finally forecast to begin lifting northward tonight and produce continuing concerns for flash flooding," according to the National Weather Service.

By the numbers: Weather radar indicates up to 4 inches of rain fell in some parts of Kentucky as of Sunday, the NWS notes.

Threat level: "Parts of southeastern Kentucky are most at risk to flash flooding this evening as soils remain overly saturated from previous drenching rainfall from the past week," per the NWS.

  • "Additional storms containing intense rainfall rates are likely to create instances of flash flooding if they pass over this region, prompting a Moderate Risk (level 3/4) of Excessive Rainfall to remain in effect over southeast Kentucky through tonight," the weather service said.

Meanwhile, there's a slight risk of excessive rainfall extends from the southern Mid-Atlantic to the lower Mississippi Valley, where there were scattered chances for flash flooding.

What to watch: The overall heavy rain threat is expected to diminish Monday as thunderstorm activity becomes more scattered, according to the NWS.

Yes, but: There "remains a concern for additional flash flood chances over susceptible terrain along the central/southern Appalachians and into eastern Kentucky/Tennessee," the weather service notes.

Context: Climate change is upping the odds of heavy precipitation events as well as their intensity in these regions, along with much of the world, as warm air holds more moisture and warmer oceans add more water vapor to the atmosphere as well, per Axios' Andrew Freedman.

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