Multiple “swift water rescues” were reported in eastern Kentucky on Thursday as heavy rain prompted the National Weather Service to issue flash-flood warnings.
“Move to higher ground now,” the Weather Service in Jackson, Ky., warned in a forecast, adding that residents should not travel unless they were fleeing an area subject to flooding. “This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation.”
Images and video of the rising waters and damage from the storm were circulating widely on social media. Brandon Copic, an extreme-weather videographer in the region, shared video of scattered debris from a landslide caused by flooding. Another video he posted showed a flooded roadway.
There was moderate risk of excessive rainfall on Thursday for eastern Kentucky along with the western edge of Virginia and parts of southern West Virginia, the Weather Prediction Center said.
Other weather alerts had also been issued for the eastern Kentucky region by the morning, including a flash flood warning, which was extended until noon for some locations.
A flash flood emergency was issued for several counties, including parts of Breathitt and Perry Counties, southeast of Lexington. Flash flood emergencies are issued in very rare situations when extremely heavy rain creates a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood occurs, the Weather Service said.
Several roads were closed in Breathitt County, officials said early Thursday, and the local courthouse was open for anyone who had been displaced by rising waters.
Meteorologists said up to six inches of rain had already fallen and an additional three inches was possible in some areas.
Forecasters also warned of life-threatening flash flooding of creeks and streams that could flow into urban areas and onto highways, streets and underpasses.
“Turn around, don’t drown when encountering flooded areas,” the Weather Service said. “Most flood deaths occur in vehicles.”
While a variety of factors contribute to flooding, researchers expect that, as the climate warms, flash floods will increase and get “flashier,” meaning their duration will shorten as their magnitude increases. Severe flash floods can be more dangerous and destructive.
Earlier this week, record rainfall drenched parts of the St. Louis region with up to a foot of rain that quickly flooded interstates and neighborhoods. One person died and about 70 others were rescued, the authorities said. More than a dozen homes experienced “significant flooding,” officials said.