But reaching the missing is not the only challenge. Many people known to have survived are still stranded because of the washed-out roads — and there’s a desperate need to either deliver supplies they need or move them, a resident of flood-hit Knott County says.
“I still have aunts and uncles that are stuck in hollers. They are diabetics. They need insulin,” Knott County resident Zack Hall told CNN on Tuesday morning.
“I went to visit one yesterday — was lucky enough to get up there (and deliver supplies) with an ATV. But there was no road … and that’s what people need to understand, is the infrastructure here is just completely destroyed and it makes relief efforts difficult, Hall said.
At least 37 people have died in the flooding, Gov. Andy Beshear said Monday. The flooding kicked off with heavy rains early Thursday in areas already saturated by previous days of rain. The death toll is expected to rise.
“We are still looking for people, and sadly we are still finding those bodies,” Beshear told CNN on Monday evening.
Efforts to reach stranded people have been complicated by washed-out infrastructure, officials say. Although cell service is being restored, some areas are still without it, leaving many unable to contact loved ones or emergency services.
Stifling heat won’t help. Wednesday will be the driest day of the week, but that will allow temperatures to climb into the 90s. Because of the humidity it will feel like nearly 100 degrees, CNN meteorologists say.
“We still have back roads and county roads that are broken off, and our bridges are out. And so it’s really difficult to get to some of the most remote places,” Lt. Govt. Jacqueline Coleman told CNN Monday.
The power and water outages are especially troubling for those who are stranded and don’t have easy access to supplies, Hall, the Knott County resident, said.
“With the heat, once it dries up for the day, it’s just muggy, humid. … A lot of people on oxygen that don’t have power are already struggling,” Hall said. “I think the worst is yet to come if we’re not able to clear paths and get to these people.”
More people with utility terrain vehicles are needed to help in the area, he said.
“If they can just come and help, help us move things, help us clear paths, help us deliver water, food, medicine to people. (And) pull people out that want to leave the area — we just need as many hands on deck as we can have,” Hall said.
Road problems make it difficult to know how many people are missing, says the governor
The infrastructure challenges make it “nearly impossible” to get a grasp of the exact number of people still missing, Beshear said Monday.
Since it began last week, the flooding has devastated several counties and displaced scores of people from their homes. The strong floodwaters wiped houses from their foundations, snatched away entire livelihoods including farms and businesses, and left residents with catastrophic damage to their properties, vehicles and belongings.
Rescue crews have been battling the weather for days as they work to reach trapped residents.
In one stunning video, an 83-year-old woman is seen being airlifted to safety by a Blackhawk helicopter in Breathitt County. A rescue team learned that she and four other family members were trapped in an attic Thursday, Wolfe County Search & Rescue Team spokesperson Drew Stevens told CNN.
The woman was unharmed, Stevens said, but a male family member suffered a broken collar bone and was taken to the hospital. He has since been released.
State grieving after several catastrophes
Beshear spoke at an event in western Kentucky on Monday for those impacted by the tornadoes and acknowledged that Kentuckians have been impacted across the state by deadly natural disasters.
“The flooding in eastern Kentucky has been hard, just like these tornadoes,” he said, adding that natural disasters “tear at the fabric of who we are.”
“I was at a breaking point the other night because that happens to all of us — it’s ok not to be ok,” Beshear said. “We’re going to get through it because we have to. We don’t have any other choice.”
The death toll from the flooding spans at least five counties and includes four siblings from Knott county who were swept away by the strong current. The children were identified to CNN by their aunt as siblings Chance, 2; Nevaeh, 4; Riley Jr., 6; and Madison, 8.
“I went to the location of what used to be their home yesterday,” Beshear said of the family that lost the four children. “I stood there in front of what would have been their front door and I saw one of the kid’s swings in the back. I think the oldest one would have been in second grade. They didn’t even get the same time on this Earth. as my kids have already enjoyed.”
CNN’s Michelle Watson, Dakin Andone, Carol Alvarado, Amy Simonson and Monica Garrett contributed to this report.