Science and TechNatural Disasters


At Least 28 Dead, Unknown Number Missing After Kentucky Flooding

In addition to loss of human life, local officials say that in Perry County alone, flood waters wiped out dozens of bridges.
Posted at 7:24 PM, Jul 31, 2022

Alongside the narrows of troublesome creek, a destructive path in Eastern Kentucky.  

"I lost my mother; her name is Betty Beaver. And my brother, his name is Bobby Lee Bearer Junior. My uncle James Mueller, and my aunt Carolyn Mueller," said Patricia Combs.

The catastrophic floods took four family members from Patricia Combs.

She looked for what was left behind. Trinkets, belongings, and memories.

"It just broke my heart," said Combs.

A short distance down the road, Tracy Ritchie is hunting for memories, too, and is still looking for her father, Dennis Stacy.

"Just trying to see if he's under there or if it's somebody else's loved one," said Ritchie.

Stacy is 72 and, like many men of his age, a former coal miner.

"He had COPD. We just think he was in there when the trailer washed away, and I am just back here digging through the trailer debris," said Ritchie.   

Along with his home in Dwarf, Kentucky, others were swept away by a torrent, too.

"There were at least 5 trailers and another building now gone behind us," said Ritchie.

On the creek, search dogs help in what's increasingly becoming a recovery effort, on the banks and in the water

Penny Steffey of the Kentucky Search Dog Association says the smell of death permeates this valley. Not just in the senses, but also emotions.  

"The odor we have found … pulling up the bodies," said Steffey.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear says the disaster's death toll continues a grim rise, and many people are still unaccounted for.

"People have lost everything and that's if they're lucky enough to still be with us," said Gov. Beshear.   

Touring through the hard-hit region Sunday, he vowed to help those affected right away.

"First thing we've committed to is we're gonna pay for every funeral. People should not have to go through a reimbursement process when they're grieving for a loved one when it takes months," said Gov. Beshear, adding that he'd soften a strike from mother nature that robbed many of their loved ones.

"He told me water wouldn't get to his trailer. And for him to be gone and his whole trailer to be gone too, it's unbelievable," said Ritchie.

What is believable, is the recovery effort that may take months if not years.

In addition to the loss of human life, local officials say that in Perry County alone, flood waters wiped out dozens of bridges, and cut off water and power to many.