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Eastern Kentucky moving into stabilization phase two weeks after deadly floods

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Justin Hicks
/
Ohio Valley ReSource

After another storm system moved through the state Tuesday and Wednesday, eastern Kentucky residents were preparing for more damage to the already flood-ravaged region.

But the storms passed through without causing much additional damage.

“The good news is that with that weather system having substantially moved through, we are likely out of the emergency phase of responding to this disaster,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at a news conference Thursday.

The death toll from the flood increased to 39 on Thursday after another death was confirmed in Breathitt County, where Kentucky State Police are continuing search efforts.

With no significant rain forecast for the days ahead, Beshear said out-of-state search and rescue teams will likely head home.

The state is now moving into the next phase of recovery following the floods — from emergency to stabilization.

“It’s when we are not worried about getting someone out on airlift, but ultimately how we get them more stable for the next, let’s say, six months,” Beshear said.

According to the governor, creating stability includes factors such as housing and infrastructure.

“This is getting people out of congregate settings, congregate shelters, getting them into our state parks more,” Beshear said. “Getting them into travel trailers, other places they can rent or stable with families.”

Beshear said the state is working to get additional travel trailers into the area and stationed at various state parks.

This also includes getting people important documents they may have lost in the storms, such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates.

Beshear said there were more than 700 people without power on Thursday, but that many of those outages were caused by the most recent wave of storms and should be temporary.

There are 6,000 water connection outages in the affected areas, and 35,000 connections remain under boil-water advisories.

“We’ve gone from 18 wastewater management systems not functioning at full capacity to five that are not operational,” Beshear said.

Beyond utilities, stabilization includes getting important roadways and bridges back to functioning, Beshear said. That includes 27 state and country bridges he characterized as “impassable” and 84 that have been identified for replacement or repair.

Debris removal has begun, a process Beshear expects to speed up once private contractors are in place to assist.

The governor said FEMA plays a large role in helping affected residents reach a stable place in the recovery process.

Twelve counties have been approved for individual assistance and disaster unemployment assistance, while 13 counties have been approved for public assistance.

FEMA has set up mobile registration centers where people can file claims and receive application assistance from FEMA representatives. The centers are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in:

  • Breathitt County: 421 Jett Drive, Jackson, KY 41339
  • Clay County: 311 Highway 638, Manchester, KY 40962
  • Floyd County: 7199 KY Rte. 80, Langley, KY 41645
  • Knott County: 450 Kenny Champion Loop #8765, Leburn, KY 41831
  • Letcher County: 1505 Jenkins Rd., Whitesburg, KY 41858
  • Owsley County: 99 Country Barn Road, Booneville, KY 41314
  • Perry County: 1 Community College Drive, Hazard, KY 41701

While Beshear says he is grateful for FEMA’s help, he’s going to continue to push for more. Specifically, he said he’s “not satisfied” with the number of FEMA claims being denied.

“Too many people are being denied, not enough people are being approved, and this is the time that FEMA’s gotta get right. To change what’s been a history of denying too many people and not providing enough dollars and to get it right here,” Beshear said.

A list of available resources can be found on the state’s website.

The governor said the state is a long way from the final rebuilding process, which will most likely be the most difficult phase of recovery. He expects the General Assembly to hold a special session addressing the flood within the next month.