Water rescue teams from the Tri-State head to eastern Kentucky amid severe flooding

Severe Weather Appalachia
Posted at 6:06 PM, Jul 28, 2022

VANDALIA, Ohio — Multiple local rescue teams have packed up and headed to Eastern Kentucky to help serve communities hardest hit by catastrophic flooding as more rain looms on the horizon.

The Northern Kentucky All-Hazards Incident Management Team and the Northern Kentucky Technical Rescue Team have been requested in the region by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management. The team made it to a hotel in London, KY Thursday night and headed out early Friday morning for Hazard, KY.

The 32 members of the teams are from Campbell, Kenton, Boone and Pendleton Counties and Butler County in Ohio.

An 11-person team of Covington firefighters, including the swift-water rescue team, also headed to eastern Kentucky. Their mission is to rescue any victims trapped in houses, stranded in cars and cut off from safety, or those who need rescued from the water.

The team consists of several technicians trained in rescuing people from swift waters. They left Covington Thursday night and were set to begin working Friday morning.

Ohio Task Force 1 — a search and rescue team that has responded to 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and dozens of other natural disasters — is also in eastern Kentucky.

The team deployed 16 members of its water rescue team. Adam Landis, the OH-TF1 team leader, said the team is conducting water-specific search and rescue efforts.

"We have boats on the water doing searches in the Jackson, Kentucky area, going house to house. We are seeing a lot of high water and significant structural damages," Landis said. “The team is doing a phenomenal job as always — spirits are good and we are helping a lot of people.”

Some Cincinnati firefighters are part of the team, according to CFD. Lt. Mike Lotz said flood water can be challenging.

“The flood water work is always difficult," Lotz said. "It’s constantly changing. You don’t know if it’s going up or going down. You could be on a nice calm lake at one moment, cross a street, or between houses, and the current wants to smash you into stuff. You have to be on top of your game. These guys definitely are."

An additional 31 members were sent down Friday. OH-TF1 said they are expecting to face challenges while down there.

"The landscape that they're in is not what we're used to — what was streets are now rivers, what was somebody's yard is now a slippery sliding mud hole," said Chris O'Connor with OH-TF1.

The team can communicate among themselves and FEMA coordinators through satellite phones. However, all other forms of communication outside of that are tricky.

"They're outside of the cell signal range,” O'Connor said. “This area is full of deep ravines, lots of hills and it's not a good cell service area on a good day.”

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency following the flooding. The death toll continues to rise.

"This is an ongoing, natural disaster. We are in the midst of it and for some places, it is going to continue through tonight with the possibility of more rain in the days to come," Beshear said. "We urge everyone to continue to take precautions to keep yourself and others safe."

Beshear started an online fundraiser to collect donations for flood victims. To donate to the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund, click here.

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