Heavy rains and severe storms which swept through Kentucky over the past 10 days have left in their wake a trail of washed out bridges and damaged infrastructure in 12 Kentucky counties, prompting Gov. Steve Beshear to declare a state of emergency.
Beshear made the announcement Friday, beginning the process to seek federal assistance to rebuild damaged property.
Of the 12 counties covered by the declaration, 11 are in eastern and southeastern Kentucky: Knox, Laurel, Whitley, Bell, Clay, Harlan, Jackson, Lee, Leslie, Owsley, and Rockcastle. The other county affected by Beshear’s declaration is Crittenden, in western Kentucky.
On Thursday, The Times-Tribune, a CNHI paper in Corbin, reported that Knox County Judge/Executive J.M. Hall told Knox Fiscal Court the storms had washed out eight to 10 bridges in the Stinking Creek and Hammons Fork areas alone. There was also severe damage to several roads and culverts and at one time rescuers were scouring the area in boats.
Beshear has asked the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) and Kentucky Emergency Management to conduct preliminary damage assessments in the affected areas and counties to determine if Kentucky qualifies for federal assistance.
He asked residents of the affected counties to contact local emergency management officials to report storm or flood damage to property.
The Times-Tribune quotes Hall as saying Knox County could be grouped with other southeastern Kentucky counties like neighboring Whitley and Clay counties and nearby Harlan County — for a disaster relief package.
Hall said the damage threshold for the four counties to qualify for federal funding was “around $1 million.”
Beshear’s declaration starts the process of estimating the cost of damages and determining if cumulative totals meet FEMA standards for federal aid.
“The declaration is part of the process to identify what assistance is needed in these counties because of the storms,” Beshear said.
“We will work with local and federal officials to measure damage and make sure each community has access to appropriate resources,” he said.
Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.