Kentucky flood live updates: death toll rises to 16

“I decided maybe politics wasn’t for me, at first when I watched my husband go through it all,” she said. “But now that I’m in it and can see what I can do for people, I think that’s where God wanted me to be.”

A year after taking office, Mrs. Craft faces more devastation.

As of Friday morning, Craft said, Letcher County, Kentucky, had suffered eight deaths, including two in Whitesburg, from flooding that crippled several counties in eastern Kentucky.

She spent the morning touring the Upper Bottom neighborhood of Whitesburg, which probably saw the worst of the flooding. She offered cookies donated by a local McDonald’s and told residents she was trying to locate dumpsters for debris and trash. The town’s dumpsters, she said, had been swept away by the flood.

Residents described how the waters of the North Kentucky Fork River, which meanders around the neighborhood, engulfed the area.

Jerry Cornett, 75, got up at 4 a.m. to have coffee on his porch. The rain at the time, he said, didn’t seem worrisome.

“I went back to bed. It was my mistake,” Mr. Cornett said, recounting that he heard neighbors knocking on his door and windows at 7:30 a.m. By then, Mr. Cornett said, local residents were recovering already residents from their homes in kayaks.

Mr. Cornett called his nephew, Jeff Cornett of Cumberland, Ky., who left a conference in Louisville to come back and help Mr. Cornett and other family members.

“You cry for a while, laugh for a while – just go through all the emotions,” Mr Cornett said.

Rebecca Cook, 38, lives two blocks up the hill from where the worst flooding occurred in Upper Bottom. Ms Cook, a dentist who returned to her hometown seven years ago, said her basement saw about a foot and a half of water. She and her husband were just some of the people who rode in kayaks to help people.

“No one was grieving at the time – just sticking together,” Ms Cook said. “I don’t really think there was time to think about anything.”

Another local couple, Jamie and Julie Hatton, watched the devastation unfold on social media. Both still had cell service in the early hours of Thursday morning, but Ms. Hatton said they were unaware of how disastrous the flooding had been since much of the city lost service.

Their home in the Westwood neighborhood was intact, so they left home to help. Mr. Hatton, 46, says that when the currents were too strong for kayaks or battery-powered boats, people would lend their motorized boats to go from neighborhood to neighborhood.

“It was so fast, you really couldn’t do anything in the kayak,” said Ms Hatton, 40.

Mr Hatton, who is the Letcher County attorney, estimated he was involved in water rescues for a total of six hours on Thursday. During that time, he said he and others had saved around 15 people.

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