Flood threat to return to inundated Ohio, Tennessee River valleys

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As cleanup efforts continue in the wake of deadly and catastrophic flooding that struck Kentucky in late July, leaving many without power or running water, rounds of downpours are expected to move through some of these same hard-hit regions during the first part of this week.

"A slow-moving cool front will combine with copious amounts of moisture to bring a renewed flooding threat to portions of the central Appalachians for part of the week, including the hard-hit areas of eastern Kentucky," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski. Portions of the Ohio and Tennessee River valleys will also be at risk.

As the front was taking shape over the Upper Midwest on Monday morning, a swath of torrential rain developed from parts of eastern Iowa to northern Illinois. In a little over three hours, Rockford, Illinois, received between 2 and 3 inches of rain.

This radar image from Monday morning, Aug. 8, 2022, shows showers and thunderstorms beginning to organize along a developing cool front from northern Missouri to northern Michigan.

Unlike urban flash flooding, in which impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete prevent water from being absorbed by the soil, mountain flooding poses an entirely different threat. The terrain from the mountainous elevation acts as a ‘funnel' that moves all rainwater into one location by means of just gravity. This results in the formation of the various rivers, creeks and streams which typically dot the Piedmont regions of the United States.

However, when one specific region receives a high amount of rainfall, all of the water flows to only one or two rivers - easily overwhelming the banks of rivers that many call home in the region.

Downpours are expected to become more numerous across the region early this week as the slow-moving front sinks southward, colliding with a hot and humid air mass from the Gulf of Mexico.

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"The already saturated soil means that even just a quick half to 1 inch of rainfall in any thunderstorm could, unfortunately, exacerbate flooding issues across the region in towns such as Hindman, Hazard and Jackson, Kentucky," Pydnowski said.

The slow-moving front is not forecast to leave the area until Thursday morning at the earliest, according to AccuWeather's latest forecast. While this does not mean that the entire first half of the week will be a complete washout across the region, the forecast will require residents to pay close attention when rain threatens as flooding could begin in a hurry.

A primary concern among local residents and meteorologists is the impact that additional flooding will have on relief efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and additional recovery agencies have set up base camps in regions that will become prone to flood damage due to their temporary construction. Recently moved debris from recent debris flows are also capable of hindering the efforts of emergency personnel aimed at helping a region already very difficult to navigate.

President Biden declared a federal emergency in order to more speedily direct funds allocated for recovery efforts, assisting residents with privately owned residences and businesses in beginning to pick up the pieces, according to The Associated Press.

A large portion of the relief effort has come from the state level. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has worked to provide access and visibility to those who lost everything in his home state.

"It's going to take significant time and significant dollars to restore what was destroyed," said Beshear.

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