A mother and child remained missing Friday, hours after they were swept into a flooded creek in eastern Kentucky, as torrential rains swamped portions of the state and forced emergency crews to make more than 160 rescues farther west in Louisville.
Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy said the two were stranded in their vehicle in high water about 9:30 a.m. on a rural highway in Lee County, near the Estill County line.
Local authorities could see them in the vehicle and attempted a water rescue, Purdy said. But about 11:30 a.m., the rushing water swept them away and rescue workers lost sight of them. A search was continuing late in the day.
As rain pushed through parts of the South and Midwest, severe thunderstorms were also blamed for the death of a woman who was camping with her family at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in eastern Kentucky and a second woman who went outside to look at the rising river.
Meanwhile, thousands of people in south central Kansas lost power amid winds that reached nearly 90 mph, downed trees and damaged buildings overnight and early Friday, and a possible tornado was being investigated in Oklahoma.
In Louisville, Simone Wester awoke Friday to the sight of boats carting away her neighbors.
“It looked like a hurricane struck,” said Wester, whose apartment complex was surrounded by floodwaters, waist-deep in some places. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Wester, 20, and her 7-month-old son, Jeremiah, were rescued by a man who removed his socks and waded through the floodwaters toward her. The man, Kevin Mansfield, charted a navigable path and ushered her out of the flooding.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said more than 160 water rescues had been made.
In Powell County, Kentucky, Catherine Carlson, 45, was killed and her husband was injured when a large tree limb fell on their tent, said Coroner Hondo Hearne. Their three children didn’t appear to be injured, he said.
The campground where the family was staying was evacuated due to flash flooding, said Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.
In Wayne County, a woman living along Upper Newcomb Creek was apparently swept away and drowned when she stepped outside her house to look at the rising water Friday night, The Herald-Dispatch reported.
The woman told her husband she was going to step outside for a moment; when she didn’t come back within a couple of minutes, he went out to look for her, but she was gone, the newspaper quoted Wayne County 911 Director Bill Willis as saying. About a half-hour later, someone called 911 to report a body in the water, he said.
In Kansas, no deaths were reported but six people were injured in a severe thunderstorm, emergency management officials said. Several buildings were damaged in Newton, and the Jabara Airport in Wichita was closed Friday morning because of storm debris on the airfield.
In Oklahoma, the National Weather Service planned to send a survey team to Ottawa County to investigate reports of a tornado touchdown.
The possible tornado near Afton was part of a storm system that moved through northeastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas late Thursday and early Friday.
Elsewhere, heavy rains that drenched parts of southern Indiana with nearly 4 inches of rain sparked flooding that trapped two truck drivers and a motorist in their vehicles Friday before emergency crews ferried them to dry ground.
In Kentucky, Powell County received 4 inches of rain, and other eastern areas of the state had 3-4 inches, said National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Edwards.
More than 6 inches of rain fell in Louisville, and Lexington had received more than 5 inches, he said.
A northern Kentucky school bus with 16 students aboard was stranded for about three hours by floodwaters that covered roads to schools. Numerous roads in northeastern Kentucky were under water.
Some cars were submerged by high water on roads next to the University of Louisville’s main campus, said school spokesman Mark Hebert. A few campus buildings had water in the basements, he said. Early classes were canceled Friday, but classes resumed by midmorning, he said.
Bill Mattingly, assistant chief of the Okolona Fire Protection District, said floodwaters started pouring into first-floor apartments overnight.
Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville canceled classes Friday.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Claire Galofaro and Bruce Schreiner