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Rains are expected to hit Kentucky again after deadly flooding

CHERYL CORLEY, HOST:

In Eastern Kentucky, relief workers are racing to help victims of the flash floods of this past week. Governor Andy Beshear told NPR's Weekend Edition the state is working fast before the rains return.

ANDY BESHEAR: We need to get everybody out of those areas, ultimately to safety, a shelter, somewhere where we can feed them, somewhere that is dry and we can get them medical attention.

CORLEY: Beshear says at least 25 people have died, and that number is likely to rise. Reporter Karyn Czar of member station WUKY has more from Jackson, Ky.

KARYN CZAR, BYLINE: These are the sounds in eastern Kentucky where deadly flash floods enveloped dozens of communities - water gushing down the mountainside, pulling mud and rock with it...

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER GUSHING)

CZAR: ...A home floating along the north fork of the Kentucky River, hitting trees and breaking apart...

(SOUNDBITE OF CRASHING)

CZAR: ...Confused livestock sloshing along flooded highways, trying to find their pastures that turned into lakes...

(SOUNDBITE OF COWS MOOING)

CZAR: ...Boats bringing in tired and traumatized survivors, some waiting days to get to dry land.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SLOSHING)

CZAR: Keith Bradley lives in Lost Creek, Ky. He says the beauty of this tiny town in Appalachia is why he continues to call it home, even though flooding has become a part of life. His home was damaged just last year. This time, he and his wife and a neighbor spent hours swimming to higher ground as he watched the rising water envelop his home.

KEITH BRADLEY: We're trying everything. We tried to, you know, motion the helicopters and boats. And there was people that was on rooftops and stuff.

CZAR: Cold, wet, exhausted and now homeless, Bradley had nothing but gratitude for the two firefighters who plucked him, his loved ones and their five pets from the floodwater and brought them to dry land.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTER ROTORS WHIRRING)

CZAR: Days into this latest natural disaster to hit Kentucky, people are still missing. At a small airport outside the town of Hazard, the U.S. Army works tirelessly to coordinate rescue efforts. Just down the road at County Line Community Church, senior pastor Anthony Mullens welcomes survivors with a warm hug and a meal. But behind his smile is grief. His own aunt was swept away Thursday morning.

ANTHONY MULLINS: Dad was on the porch. He got washed under the water, and he came up and grabbed her hand to try to save her. But she washed off.

CZAR: Outside the church, tents are being set up and food trucks arrive. Pastor Mullins says they aren't looking for donations of clothing that need to be sorted or household items because people don't have a place to store anything. Their immediate needs are simple.

MULLINS: Right now, we need cleaning supplies. We need water. And we need food that we can cook.

CZAR: Other churches, schools and state parks have also been transformed into shelters. Where the water has begun to recede, the Kentucky landscape is littered. A chunk of roof hangs from a tree. Toys, clothes and furniture are stuck to mountainsides, and wreckage is scattered across roadways. Stephen Bowling of the Jackson Fire Department monitors the Panbowl Lake Dam, which has been breached in years past. The danger is over for now, but as the water level drops, the damage is clear.

STEPHEN BOWLING: Water has power. It has weights. And when you get that weight moving, it can push and pull and break and smash.

CZAR: Bowling says repairs will be needed before the next big storm. He ends on a note of hope.

BOWLING: We always say that mountain people are truly - they're just a phoenix. You know, you burn us down today, and we will rise tomorrow.

CZAR: For NPR News, I'm Karyn Czar in Jackson, Ky. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Karyn Czar