Kentucky’s Air National Guard rescued 19 stranded residents and two dogs in the aftermath of horrific flooding in eastern Kentucky last week that claimed the lives of dozens of people.
Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron deployed to the region last Thursday and carried out a four-day rescue operation.
“We found out about the situation Thursday morning at approximately 8:10 a.m.,” Maj. Ian Williams, squadron commander, said in a statement. “Before we had our tasking to respond, we started having our initial team show up to the squadron to prepare gear in the event that we would have to push out and support.”
Some 17 STS members traveled over roads with boats and trucks. Another six operators and Callie, a certified search-and-rescue canine in the U.S. military, departed via helicopter transport provided by the Kentucky Army Guard 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade.
“Our success at the 123rd STS wouldn’t be possible without our mission support folks,” Williams said. “They’re the first to arrive at the unit when something happens because they know that the vehicles, boats, communications equipment and resupply coordination are make-or-break elements of this sort of mission.”
Multiple agencies took part in the rescue effort, including the Kentucky State Police and Army National Guard troops from Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The death toll from the massive flooding in eastern Kentucky stood at 37 on Tuesday after more bodies were found Monday in the ruined landscape. And while more than 1,300 people have been rescued, crews are still trying to reach some people who remain cut off by floods or mudslides. Hundreds were unaccounted for, a number that should drop as cellphone service is restored and people can tell each other they’re alive, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said.
The National Weather Service warned that slow-moving showers and thunderstorms could provoke more flash flooding along waterways swollen by Sunday’s heavy rain, a dismal coda to last week’s historic floods. That includes communities just across the state line in Virginia and West Virginia, where some people also remain without power.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.