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Eastern Kentucky hit with another round of flooding

(OLIVE HILL, Ky.) - Streams overflowed their banks and hundreds of homes and businesses were inundated as flooding caused by steady rains spread throughout eastern Kentucky.

While residents of Harlan and nearby towns cleaned up Wednesday, heavy rains spread into northeastern Kentucky, causing flooding along a 90-mile swath from Ashland to Winchester.

Up to 70 percent of the homes and businesses in downtown Olive Hill were damaged when the usually placid Tygart Creek turned into a raging torrent. Severe flood damage also was reported in Morehead, Rush and Cannonsburg.

Officials in 12 counties declared emergencies and were asking for state and federal help in the cleanup.

Rain had stopped in much of the Appalachian region by late Wednesday afternoon, leaving a toll since the weekend of seven deaths and hundreds of damaged or destroyed homes. There was no precipitation in the forecast until late Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued flood warnings for Carroll and Owen counties in north-central Kentucky, where the Kentucky River had overflowed in some locations after receiving 2 to 4 inches of rain Tuesday. The river was expected to remain high through Friday.

Gov. Paul Patton toured southeastern Kentucky on Wednesday to assess flood-damaged areas around Pineville and Harlan with a disaster assessment team. An estimated 300 homes were affected there.

Flooding hit downtown Morehead for the first time in at least 25 years, forcing Morehead State University to close Wednesday. The town received more than 4 inches of rain in a 24-hour period ending Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

In Olive Hill, a housing complex for the elderly and a daycare center had to be emptied when murky water rose.

``The water came up so fast,'' said Karen Epling, assistant director of ABC Child Care. ``We had 14 children. We loaded up on the bus and got out of here.''

Eddie Lambert, emergency management director for Boyd County, said about 300 homes were damaged by flooding and about 100 people had to be evacuated, half of those by boat.

``We've had boats in areas where there aren't even any streams,'' she said.

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner made a disaster assistance request for southwestern Virginia after weekend rains caused severe flooding that swept away bridges and temporarily displaced more than a thousand people. He estimated the floods damaged more than 400 homes in his state.

Authorities in southwestern Virginia suspended the search for a 75-year-old woman who was believed to have been swept away by floodwaters Monday.

In West Virginia, which had largely been spared in earlier storms, more than 3 inches of rain had fallen in Huntington by early Wednesday and totals were up to 2 inches in other parts of the state.

About 100 residents in Cabell, Wayne and Roane counties left their homes as streams overflowed their banks and swamped neighborhoods. High water also closed more than 140 roads in 20 counties.

In Tennessee, a fast current on the swollen Cumberland River caused 11 barges to come loose from the tugboat pushing them. Three capsized and two others partially capsized near Ashland City. The barges were carrying sand, and no one was injured.

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