Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog


Heavy torrential rainfall and severe storm weather has led to catastrophic flooding events in Missouri and Kentucky over the past week. In eastern Kentucky, the flash flooding began Wednesday afternoon, July 27, after several rounds of storms produced excessive rainfall in the Appalachian foothills. The rain fell in excess of 4 inches an hour at times during the four-day period, resulting in 24 Flash Flood Warnings issued from July 26 to July 30. During this time, over 600 helicopter rescues and numerous swift water rescues, from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Kentucky National Guard, were used to evacuate residents in impacted areas. On Friday, July 29, President Joe Biden approved Kentucky’s disaster declaration and ordered federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local recovery efforts in Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Johnson, Knott, Leslie, Letcher, Magoffin, Martin, Owsley, Perry, Pike, and Wolfe counties. Governor Andy Beshear stated that the State has 37 flood-related fatalities as of late Monday, August 1, and was expected to climb as search efforts continue.

Floodwaters in Eastern Kentucky: National Guard

On Monday, August 1, Governor Beshear asked for additional disaster assistance to be made available to the State as the National Weather Service (NWS) continues to call for intense rain and wind. Tuesday morning, Governor Beshear announced that he would be visiting Pike, Floyd, and Breathitt counties to assess damages and meet with impacted residents to best understand how to approach response and recovery efforts with continued intense weather on the horizon. As of 12:20 pm EDT on Tuesday, August 2, the NWS Office in Louisville, Kentucky issued a rain and wind hazardous weather outlook until Wednesday morning, with showers and thunderstorms through Sunday. Governor Beshear encourages Kentucky residents to keep abreast of changing flood conditions by checking the news and be aware of the existing and expanding flood resources available within the State.

Twitter: NWS Louisville

In addition to intense flooding already impacting the State of Kentucky, Governor Beshear announced on Tuesday “our new weather challenge:” extreme heat. He relayed that while efforts are underway to reinstate power to impacted areas, individuals who are immunocompromised or at greater risk of heatstroke, such as children and the elderly, should seek shelter in cooling centers established by Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM). According to the NWS Office in Jackson, Kentucky, heat indices will climb throughout Tuesday and peak on Wednesday and Thursday, where temperatures will combine with humid air close to 100 degrees. During concurrent emergencies such as these, NWS recommends avoiding flooded and impacted areas while seeking shelter in designated cooling zones and monitoring local radar, television, social media, and other emergency service updates.

Heat Threat Maps of Eastern Kentucky: NWS Jackson

While Kentucky faced historic flooding challenges, flooding throughout the City of St. Louis prompted Missouri Governor Mike Parson to issue Executive Order 22-05, officially declaring a State of Emergency across the state. As of August 2, the state has not been granted a federal disaster declaration, but Governor Parson is seeking that declaration to access federal recovery funding related to flood damages. He was able to activate the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to deploy emergency coordinators across the impacted areas, each equipped with the skills to bolster local resources and response needs. Additionally, the City of St. Louis deployed emergency responders and set up Mobile Command Centers to assist residents in impacted communities. 


Across the weekend of July 30, the NWS issued sporadic Flash Flooding Warnings from throughout the Central Plains through the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Excessive rainfall in both frequency and volume contributed to damages to infrastructure in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. NWS reports that this weather system, caused by moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, contributed to additional flooding fears when heavy rains were slow to move out of impacted areas like eastern Kentucky, the Central Plains, and the Mississippi Valley. In addition to heavy rains, the Central Plains and Ohio Valley experienced damaging winds that contributed to destruction of structures and continued thunderstorms coming out of the weekend.

Twitter: NWS Lincoln

The NWS St. Louis Office has issued a flood warning for Fayette County, Illinois between 11 am and 2:30 pm CDT on Tuesday, August 2, due to heavy rainfall. The NWS predicts that this rainfall, which amounted between three and five inches across different regions of southern Illinois, created flooding in country roads, small streams and creeks, farmland, and other local areas. In addition to flood warnings, the NWS St. Louis Office has issued a hazardous weather outlook for eastern and central Missouri and west central and southwest Illinois as thunderstorms approach the region. Heat advisories are in place as heat index values exceed 105 degrees with humidity creating dangerous conditions. 

In addition, monsoonal rains produced flash floods and debris flows in multiple Southwestern states. In Nevada, torrential downpours in the Las Vegas Valley left nearly 7,600 people without power Thursday evening, July 28. According to NWS meteorologist Andy Gorelow, up to an inch of rain fell upon the city in about two hours, totaling roughly half the total annual rainfall for the area. In Kingman, Arizona, the NWS reported more than an inch of rain fell in 15 minutes near the California stateline on Sunday, July 31. Officials closed numerous roads near the Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve in Southern California, after flash flooding buckled pavements. Blocked roadways were also reported near the San Bernardino National Forest, where mudslides brought trees and large rocks onto passageways.


The McKinney Fire, which started the afternoon of Friday, July 29, in Siskiyou County’s Klamath National Forest, is now the State of California’s largest blaze this year and is responsible for multiple casualties and thousands of evacuations. The Incident Information System (InciWeb) lists the total acreage burned at 55,493 as of Tuesday, August 2 at 10:37 AM CST and the fire is 0 percent contained, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). While the United States Forest Service(USFS) – Klamath National Forest reported that “no perimeter growth was observed” on Monday, officials are forecasting weather conditions in the coming days that will pose a challenge to containment efforts. On Sunday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release stating that fire personnel discovered two deceased individuals inside their vehicle parked in a driveway located west of the Klamath River. On Saturday, July 30, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a state of emergency declaration for Siskiyou County. Additionally, evacuation orders and warnings are in effect to protect residents from the fire burning in their area and residents of nearby at-risk areas. Upwards of 3,000 people have been ordered to evacuate and a temporary Red Cross shelter has been established at a community recreation center in Weed, California, about 90 minutes southeast of the fire incident.

Twitter: Alameda County Fire

In addition to the McKinney Fire, Siskiyou County is currently experiencing several other wildland fire events. As of Tuesday, August 2 at 7:17am CST, CAL FIRE reports that the Meamber Fire and Shackleford Fire have cumulatively burned nearly 100 acres, and another estimated 75 acres have burned from the Kelsey Fire, per a July 31 update from the USFS. Meanwhile, the Oak Fire in Mariposa County, as reported in Hagerty’s Situation Status (Sit Stat) Report on July 27, has burned 19,244 acres and is now 76 percent contained according to the latest CAL FIRE Situation Summary. The summary reported that so far, 193 structures have been destroyed, 10 have been damaged damaged, and one injury has been confirmed as result of the Oak Fire incident.

Be Prepared for any Emergency: Ready.gov

Currently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Storm Prediction Center (SPC) forecasts Critical Fire Weather for areas of eastern Oregon, Idaho, and southwest Montana. Wildfires often strike communities with little notice, which is why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) urges individuals to plan ahead. Essential preparedness measures include signing up in advance for your community’s emergency alerts and warnings, and learning and practicing your evacuation routes

To stay informed about wildfire and severe weather events, NOAA’s NWS provides the latest alerts in your area. Another way to stay updated is through real-time alerts available via the FEMA Mobile App and other local and national communication systems. FEMA encourages individuals to adhere to the guidance of local authorities in order to stay safe when flooding, wildfire, and heat events impact their communities.

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