Biden visits flood-ravaged Kentucky

Mid-South

(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden joined Gov. Andy Beshear on Monday to meet with families and survey damage from storms that have created the worst flooding in Kentucky’s history.

At least 37 people have died since last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10 1/2 inches of rain in only 48 hours. The National Weather Service said Sunday that flooding remains a threat, warning of more thunderstorms happening through Thursday.

The president and first lady Jill Biden were greeted warmly by Beshear and his wife, Britainy, when they arrived in eastern Kentucky. They immediately drove to see the devastation from the storms in Breathitt County, stopping at the site of where a school bus, carried by floodwaters, was crashed into a partially collapsed building.

Attending a briefing on the flooding’s impact with first responders and recovery specialists at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek, Biden pledged the continued support of the federal government.

“We’re not leaving, as long as it takes, we’re going to be here,” he said.

The intense downpours happened across rural Appalachia, with steep hills and terrain of narrow river channels funneling water into Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. Water tumbled down hillsides and into valleys and hollows where it swelled creeks and storms coursing through small towns. The torrent engulfed homes and businesses and trashed vehicles. Some people were marooned on steep slopes by mudslides.

Scientists warn climate change is to blame for making severe storms, like the flooding, more common.

“It’s a battle of extremes going on right now in the United States,” said University of Oklahoma meteorologist Jason Furtado. “These are things we expect to happen because of climate change. … A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and that means you can produce increased heavy rainfall.”

It is Biden’s second trip to the state. He previously visited in December after tornadoes killed more than 70 people.

Biden has expanded federal disaster assistance to Kentucky, ensuring the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures.

It’s Biden’s first presidential trip since leaving isolation for COVID-19 following two days in a row of negative tests.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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