“I decided maybe politics wasn’t for me, at the beginning when I watched my husband go through it all,” she said. “But now that I’m in it and I can see what I can do for people, I think this is where God meant for me to be.”
A year after taking office, Ms. Craft is dealing with more devastation.
As of Friday morning, Ms. Craft said, Letcher County, Ky., had eight deaths, two in Whitesburg, as a result of the flooding that has crippled multiple eastern Kentucky counties.
She spent the morning touring the Upper Bottom neighborhood of Whitesburg, which probably saw the worst of the flooding. She offered biscuits donated from a local McDonald’s and told residents she was trying to locate dumpsters for debris and trash. The city’s dumpsters, she said, had been washed away in the flood.
Residents described how the waters from the North Kentucky Fork River, which winds around the neighborhood, engulfed the area.
Jerry Cornett, 75, woke up at 4 a.m. to have coffee on his front porch. The rain at the time, he said, didn’t seem worrisome.
“I went back to bed. That was my mistake,” Mr. Cornett said, recounting that he heard neighbors banging on his door and windows at 7:30 a.m. By then, Mr. Cornett said, local residents were already retrieving residents from their homes via kayak.
Mr. Cornett called his nephew, Jeff Cornett of Cumberland, Ky., who left a conference in Louisville to return and help Mr. Cornett and other family members.
“You cry a while, laugh a while — just go through all the emotions,” Mr. Cornett said.
Rebecca Cook, 38, lives two streets up the hill from where the worst of the flooding happened in Upper Bottom. Ms. Cook, a dentist who returned to her hometown seven years ago, said her basement saw about a foot and a half of water. She and her husband were just some of the people getting in kayaks to help people.
“Nobody was grieving at that point — just pitching together,” Ms. Cook said. “I don’t really think there was time to think about anything.”
Another local couple, Jamie and Julie Hatton, watched the devastation unfold on social media. The two still had cell service in the early morning hours of Thursday, but Ms. Hatton said they didn’t know how disastrous the floods had been since much of the town had lost service.
Their home in the Westwood neighborhood was untouched, so they left home to help. Mr. Hatton, 46, said that when the currents were too strong for kayaks or battery-operated boats, people lent their motorized boats to go from neighborhood to neighborhood.
“It was so swift, you really could not do anything in a kayak,” said Ms. Hatton, 40.
Mr. Hatton, who serves as the Letcher County attorney, estimated he assisted in water rescues for a total of six hours on Thursday. In that time, he said he and others rescued about 15 people.