JACKSON, Ky. – "I knew things were bad as soon as I opened the door," said Jessica Willett, a mother of two and survivor of the historic flooding that hit eastern Kentucky last week.
A video recording from Willett taken during the stormy, pitch-dark night showed the brown floodwaters rushing like river rapids around her front porch.
She spoke with FOX Weather on Tuesday, with her son quietly sitting on her lap as she recalled the night her home was destroyed by the flood.
"We were inside the house the whole time," Willett said. "It swept us off the foundations, swept us about 100 feet down the holler."
"I was hoping and praying that the house wouldn't rip apart, but you could hear it popping and cracking," she added. "We were lucky that we got stuck between a tree stump and the hillside. That's the only thing that kept us from being ripped apart."
With floodwaters fast and strong enough to move houses, Willett realized that she wouldn’t be able to walk through it with her two children. To keep her family together and prevent them from being washed away, Willett looked around her home to see what she could use.
"I grabbed three bathrobe ties, and that wasn't long enough," she said. "I thought of the next best thing to a rope, which was a vacuum cord. So, I cut it in half and tied us together."
For Willett, using the vacuum cord to tie herself to her children was not only a way to save them — if she were to fail, she wanted to ensure that her family’s remains would be found together.
Willett’s home was one of many hit by historic flooding in eastern Kentucky last week. Between Tuesday and Thursday, 7 to 10 inches of rain fell in parts of the Appalachian region, with most of the rain falling in just a few hours early Thursday morning.
Willet’s town of Jackson received nearly 8 inches of rainfall during the storm.
At least 37 people are now confirmed dead, but the death toll is expected to rise.
"I'm worried about how many more people we'll find and how long it's going to take to find some people who are out there," said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear on Monday.
In the meantime, potentially life-threatening heat is forecast to blanket the flood-ravaged region on Wednesday and Thursday, with temperatures rising into the mid-80s to 90 degrees. But factoring in the humidity, temperatures in some areas will feel hotter than 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky.
Many homes struck by the flood are unable to power air conditioning units and provide shelter from this heat, as they are still without electricity.
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