A Kentucky woman who survived a harrowing rescue during the state’s devastating flooding this summer has died.
A photo of Mae Amburgey, a 97-year-old resident of Ermine, Kentucky, sitting in her flooded home had gone viral over the summer after her granddaughter posted it on social media, begging someone to come to the rescue.
Ms Amburgey survived, but her home sustained serious damage from the floods and she hadn’t been able to go back, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader.
“I believe she died of a broken heart,” her granddaughter, Missy Amburgey Crovetti, told the paper.
As heavy rains hit eastern Kentucky in late July, water rushed through many low-lying areas and valleys, trapping thousands of people in flash floods and destroying entire communities.
Ms Amburgey and her son Larry Amburgey, who was also in the house, eventually started swimming out toward some boats amid the strong current, reported the Herald-Leader at the time. Rescuers quickly reached her, and then grabbed her son, who ended up on a ventilator after inhaling water, the paper added.
On a GoFundMe page, Ms Crovetti wrote that Ms Amburgey was transferred to a hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia, and eventually to a nursing home for recovery.
Ms Amburgey had been staying with a son in Alabama for about a week before she died, Ms Crovetti told the Herald-Leader.
“I think if it hadn’t been for the flood, if she hadn’t suffered that trauma, I think she would have still been with us,” Ms Crovetti told the paper.
The official death toll from the floods has now reached at least 43 people, making it one of the worst disasters to hit the country this year. That death toll includes four young siblings who all died during the floods after being swept away from their parents.
While the initial damage assessment is over, rebuilding and recovery in many of the worst-hit communities will likely take years.
These kinds of storms may only become more common as the climate crisis grows. One recent study found that as the planet grows warmer, many parts of the US will face a higher flash flood risk from storms that drop a ton of water all at once.
Low-lying areas, like the valleys and glens that flooded in the eastern Kentucky Appalachian Mountains this summer, as well as urban areas with poor drainage, are at serious risk of dangerous flash floods during these rapid-onset and heavy rainstorms.