Heavy rain overnight Wednesday into Thursday caused devastating flash flooding in Eastern Kentucky, killing at least eight. The death toll is expected to rise as responders comb through submerged homes, vehicles, and roads. This is the second deadly extreme rainfall event caused by the weather system that struck the St. Louis area earlier this week. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency and activated the Kentucky National Guard as high waters and strong currents are making rescues difficult for first responders. More than 25,000 residents were without power as of Thursday afternoon, and more heavy rain events could continue through Friday, NOAA warns.
While a variety of factors contribute to flooding, researchers expect that as climate change continues to worsen flash floods will increase and get “flashier,” meaning they will be shorter, but more intense. Extreme precipitation events driven by climate change have increased significantly over the past 100 years. The U.S. National Climate Assessment finds heavy rainfall is now about 20% to 40% more likely in and around eastern Kentucky than it was around 1900.