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Internet Debates Climate Change’s Role in Devastating Kentucky Flooding – Newsweek

Social media users spoke about climate change on Friday and the potential role they believed it played in the recent flash flooding experienced in parts of Kentucky.

Earlier this week, heavy rainfall hit several areas in Eastern Kentucky, resulting in devastating flash floods, that caused widespread property damage and at least 16 fatalities. During a press conference on Friday, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear announced that children may be among those that have died and said, “This situation is ongoing. We are still in the search-and-rescue mode and at least in some areas the water is not going to crest until tomorrow.”

While dozens of social media users shared photos and images of the widespread damage caused by the flooding, others discussed climate change.

Kentucky
Kentucky’s flash floods have prompted social media users to discuss climate change. Above, flooding from the North Fork of the Kentucky River came over Bert T. Combs Mountain Parkway outside of Jackson, Kentucky, on July 29.
Michael Swensen/Getty

Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., shared a photo of the flash flooding seen in Kentucky and said, “My heart goes out to people in #Kentucky devastated by #flooding. Human-induced climate change, particularly when coupled with poverty, a human-made disaster, causes severe weather to be even more destructive.”

Twitter user danyb3 shared a similar photo and wrote, “SE Kentucky is under water. No cell service. Dozens missing. (Hopefully because no cell service.) 100 year, 500 year flood? Climate change is real.”

Twitter user Duane Peters also shared a photo of the flooding that also captured a sign for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Oh the irony. Massive destructive flash floods hit KY while a large trailer with Vote Mitch McConnell for Kentucky is washed away in the water. McConnell denies that climate change is real and continues to support global warming fossil fuel barons over the needs of KY citizens,” the tweet said.

Florida House of Representatives candidate Cindy Banyai also discussed climate change and the Kentucky flooding, saying, “We need to take climate change seriously. We need to invest in our infrastructure to meet the new reality.”

“Just awful to hear about the flooding in Kentucky. My heart goes out to the community and for the families of the lost,” Banyai’s tweet added.

Jeff Berardelli, a chief meteorologist for WFLA-TV posted similar remarks on Twitter. “9” of rain in 12 hours in Hazard, KY is simply in its own Universe. To say it’s an expected 1-in-1000 year event, in a 20th century climate, is an understatement. But with climate change, what was almost impossible then is now not only possible, it’s probable,” Berardelli wrote.

According to the Louisville Courier Journal, this is not the first time parts of Kentucky have experienced flooding. In 2021, Breathitt County experienced a similar incident when water levels from the Panbowl Lake dam rose, damaging homes and other property.

In an email sent to the Louisville Courier Journal, Kentucky’s state climatologist Megan Schargorodski said that state’s “climate is getting notably warmer and wetter.”

During a press conference on Thursday, Beshear updated residents on the flooding incident and mentioned climate change.

“I believe climate change is real, I believe that it is causing more severe weather.… With that said, I don’t know about this one, and whether it is or is not connected. And I don’t want to cheapen or politicize what these folks are going through,” Beshear said.

A spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration directed Newsweek to the National Climate Assessment’s Fourth report, which said, “Throughout the southeastern United States, the impacts of sea level rise, increasing temperatures, extreme heat events, heavy precipitation, and decreased water availability continue to have numerous consequences for human health, the built environment, and the natural world.

“The number of extreme rainfall events is increasing. For example, the number of days with 3 or more inches of precipitation has been historically high over the past 25 years, with the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s ranking as the decades with the 1st, 3rd, and 2nd highest number of events, respectively,” the report added.

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