Ohio triples deployment to Eastern Kentucky disaster zone

The death toll from the floods stands at 16, including six children.
Published: Jul. 29, 2022 at 7:54 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Another 31 members of Ohio Task Force 1 will travel to flood-ravaged Eastern Kentucky Friday night.

The request comes as disaster-response coordinators anticipate the need for additional flood rescue efforts.

OH-TF1 initially deployed a 16-member team specializing in aquatic search and rescue efforts Thursday. The total deployment now stands at 47 team members.

“We have boats on the water doing searches in the Jackson, Kentucky area, going house to house,” said Task Force Leader Adam Landis. “We are seeing a lot of high water and significant structural damages.”

Asked how his team is doing, Landis replied, “The team is doing a phenomenal job as always. Spirits are good and we are helping a lot of people.”

The death toll is now at 16, including 6 children, according to Gov. Andy Beshear. Authorities warn the death toll could grow sharply as search efforts continue.

“From everything we’ve seen, we may be updating the count of how many we lost for the next several weeks,” he said. “In some of these areas, it’s hard to know exactly how many people were there.”

Parts of eastern and southeastern Kentucky got more than six inches of rain in a 24-hour period Thursday [map], causing severe flash flooding. Friday morning, the North Fork of the Kentucky River crested at 43.16 feet, breaking the all-time record from February 1939.

Beshear has called it one of the “worst and most devastating flooding events in Kentucky’s history,” adding the damage is massive with hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed. He declared a State of Emergency and activated the National Guard early Thursday.

The rain let up early Friday morning, creating a response window that may only last a day.

Some waterways are not expected to crest until Saturday, and another storm system with heavy rain is expected to move across the commonwealth this weekend.

Meanwhile, concerns are mounting about the Panbowl Lake Dam possibly flooding. There are neighborhoods, a hospital, a school and businesses along the lake, according to our sister station in Lexington.

The Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund has been set up to help the areas affected by flooding. Click here to learn more about how you can help.

Extreme rain events have become more common due to climate change, making predictions more difficult as models become increasingly outdated, the Associated Press reports.

“This is what climate change looks like,” meteorologist and Weather Underground founder Jeff Masters said of flooding in Appalachia and the Midwest. “These extreme rainfall events are the type you would expect to see in a warming world.”

Members of the Cincinnati Fire Department deployed with OH-TF1 Thursday.

The Northern Kentucky All-Hazards Incident Management Team and the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue Team were also requested by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management/State EOC-HQ in Frankfort to deploy to Eastern Kentucky.

Members of the teams are from Campbell, Kenton, Boone and Pendleton counties in Kentucky as well as Butler County, Ohio.

A total of 32 team members from Northern Kentucky are currently deployed, together with 11 Covington firefighters and Butler County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Services.

OH-TF1, a FEMA urban search and rescue task force based in Dayton, has deployed three times in the last year.

In June 2021, the team went to the site of the condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida. In August 2021, it traveled to Louisiana in preparation for Hurricane Ida’s landfall.

Most recently, in December 2021, the task force deployed to western Kentucky, where four tornadoes claimed nearly 100 lives. Veterans of the task force said upon returning that they had never before seen destruction on that scale.

Since the task force’s creation in 1998, it has deployed to 28 disaster areas, thirteen of which involved hurricane responses. The team also responded to the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Columbia shuttle debris recovery site.

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