(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) — Temperatures were expected to soar on Wednesday in a region of eastern Kentucky where people are shoveling out from the wreckage of massive flooding, many in places without electricity.
The rising heat and humidity meant heat index values near 100 by midday, a steam bath that will continue through Thursday evening, the National Weather Service said.
This week’s weather added to the hardships in Knott County, where Kirsten Gomez’s husband and cousin were gutting their doublewide trailer of drywall, flooring and cabinets ruined by floodwaters from nearby Troublesome Creek.
“It is so miserable. The humidity is so high, it takes your breath,” Gomez said Tuesday. “Your clothes stick to you. Your hair sticks to you. This mud is caked on you. … But I’m just blessed that we don’t have rain anymore.”
Cooling centers were opened after forecasters warned of the risk of heat-related illnesses in an advisory issued for the flood-ravaged area.
The death toll stood at 37, and while more than 1,300 people have been rescued, crews were still trying to reach some people who remain cut off by floods or mudslides. About 5,000 customers still lacked electricity in eastern Kentucky as of Wednesday morning, according to Poweroutages.com. Emergency shelters housed hundreds of residents who had homes destroyed or damaged.
The historic flooding also hit areas just across the state line in Virginia and West Virginia, where some people also remained without power.
President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to counties flooded after 8 to 10 1/2 inches (20 to 27 centimeters) of rain fell in just 48 hours last week in the Appalachian mountain region.