Heavy rains that drenched Appalachia earlier this week brought what Gov. Andy Beshear called one of the most devastating flooding events in Kentucky's history.
The flooding has claimed the lives of at least 25 people, including four children, but the governor said he expects the death toll to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
"It is devastating," Beshear told NPR's Scott Simon. "We have whole towns that are underwater, houses that were in the line of the water are just gone; not a piece of the house left.
"We've lost 25 Kentuckians, each one a child of God, that isn't going to be there at that next holiday, and we're going to lose more before this is done," the governor said.
Beshear announced at a news conference Saturday afternoon that the confirmed deaths had occurred across five counties.
"We continue to pray for the families that have suffered and unfathomable loss, some having lost almost everyone in their household," he said. "... That count is going to continue to go up, and we don't lose this many people in flooding; this is a real tough one."
National Guard members were called up from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia to help with rescue operations. As of Saturday afternoon, a total of 664 people have been rescued by National Guard air operations, Beshear said, and another 19 people — and two dogs — were saved by boat.
Emergency phone lines have been extremely busy, Beshear said, with an overwhelming amount of calls from people looking for friends and loved ones. Instead of calling in, the governor said people can send an email to email@example.com to report a missing person. Senders should include their own name and contact information, as well as the name, description and contact information of the missing person.
The governor declared a state of emergency for the flooding Thursday and requested federal aid the following day. Beshear's initial request was approved by President Biden on Friday.
Approximately 18,000 power outages are still being reported, down from 23,000, as a result of the historic flooding. Water systems have been impacted as well, Beshear said, some of which are limping along while others are out of order.
The governor is advising residents to prepare for the coming days with more rains in the forecast. Beshear also told people to be careful while trying to get to safety: the flooding hasn't begun to subside and swift waters can still carry people away.
Saturday's forecast predicts clear skies, but the same can't be said for Sunday afternoon, the governor said. Authorities hope to rescue as many people as possible before the rains come back.
"While it won't be as severe, we already have so much water and we're saturated, it's going to be a problem," Beshear said. "And then you go into next week and it's going to be really, really hot, and we are going to have a lot of people that are without power. So, we're bringing every resource to bear. What we face is tough."