By Dana Kuhnline
If you haven’t yet heard, Communities across a vast area of eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia and West Virginia have been hit hard by an on-going devastating climate disaster. Last week, Eastern Kentucky was hit with devastatingly severe flash flooding – the second millennium flood to hit the region in 2022. As of the writing of this blog, the death toll now stands at 37 lives lost, with hundreds still unaccounted for.
The toll of a crisis like this is impossible to count with numbers. Homes have been lost, bridges are washed out, grocery stores, health clinics, churches, and cultural institutions like Appalshop and the Hindman Settlement School, the Appalachian School of Luthiery and the Appalachian Citizens Law center are all digging out from the mud with more storms threatening on the horizon.
Rescuers are traveling up and down hollers by mule (yes, the farm animal), helicopter, ATV and other off road equipment to look for those missing where bridges have been washed out and roads blocked by debris. Often they are guided by hand drawn maps made by neighbors and friends hoping to hear good news about loved ones they haven’t heard from since the flooding began.
The situation is dire and heartbreaking – support is needed now.
When times are tough, we stick together. In pandemics or droughts, after unrest or floods, we know we do better when our communities can thrive. We can come together to take action & create a region where everyone is cared for & our communities have what we need to be healthy.
If at all possible, please take a moment this week and lift up flood related rescue and recovery efforts however you can – here are a few options:
- Post a message of solidarity and support on your social media, using #KentuckyStrong and #ClimateDisaster – here is an example message provided by our friends at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth: Sending love & solidarity to Kentucky communities facing awful flooding. Climate disasters affect us all & land hardest on people hurting from systemic racism, poverty, extraction. Donate now: bit.ly/AppCrisisAid #KentuckyStrong #ClimateDisaster #ClimateJustice
- Donate to a crisis fund established by the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky at bit.ly/AppCrisisAid. The Foundation is a close community partner working to provide immediate relief assistance and facilitate mid-term and long-term recovery efforts.
- If you’d like to research more ways to give and support, there is a summary of ongoing efforts and donation needs at Appalshop Flood Support Resources.
As Appalshop Director Alex Gibson wrote in this moving op ed:
“There is no prize for being “right” about climate change, or about the fragile infrastructure in the mountains, or about years of lack of real, community-based investment in Appalachia. Unfortunately, Appalachia is the harbinger of the future if nothing is done about holding companies and officials accountable for the extractive, parasitic effect they have on communities like ours, and that future is bleak. While we count our dead and we salvage what we can, we must take action to make sure events like this don’t happen again. People’s lives literally depend on it.”
Our hearts are broken open at the flooding and loss our neighbors are experiencing. Appalachians are resilient. We wish Appalachians didn’t have to prove how resilient they are with such frequency. We’re in awe of the heroes working tirelessly to support their neighbors in flood hit areas right now, and hope you’ll take a moment, in some way today, to show your support.