By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Gov. Andy Beshear submitted a request to President Joe Biden on Friday asking that a major disaster declaration be issued for the severe winter storm systems that impacted Kentucky last month.
The storms impacted Kentucky from Feb. 8 – 19, prompting the governor on Feb. 11 to issue a state of emergency order. Fifty-nine counties and 38 cities likewise issued local states of emergency.
The systems produced heavy rain, hail, sleet, freezing rain, ice and bitter arctic air which caused impassable roadways, massive power outages, water system failures, landslides, mudslides and disruption of critical government services.
The ice storm alone left 154,500 Kentucky homes without power at the height of the event. There were four confirmed attributed to the weather system. The Kentucky National Guard was activated with 90 personnel assisting with the clearing of roadways, evacuating at-risk citizens and conducting wellness checks.
“The impacts of February’s ice and rain events were significant,” said Beshear. “We are thankful for the many state and local agencies and organizations who rose to the occasion to help their neighbors. Unfortunately, the damage a great number of our counties endured requires an additional response from the federal government before they can begin the recovery they desperately need.”
The governor’s request seeks public assistance for the counties of Bath, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Marion, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Mercer, Morgan, Montgomery, Nicholas, Nelson, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Wayne, Whitley and Wolfe. Damages assessed by state, local and federal representatives are projected to exceed $30 million. A request for additional counties may follow as damage assessments are ongoing.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Program provides funding to eligible applicants for allowable costs associated with debris removal, emergency protective actions and restoration of impacted infrastructure.
“The recent ice-storm damage to the state’s electrical infrastructure was significant, and in some regions reminiscent of the debilitating event of 2009,” said Emergency Management Director Michael Dossett. “Our eastern counties were hit hardest, and in some cases, homeowners were without power for many days. With the governor’s submission, we are hopeful for federal assistance to repair and restore our infrastructure and the damage to county utilities in furtherance of the protection and safety of our communities and citizens.”
The request for a FEMA presidential disaster declaration is a complex process that includes time to conduct damage assessments following severe weather events. Both involve local, state and federal officials review of the damages and the estimated repair costs. Following the submission of the request for a federal declaration, the decision process typically takes 30 days before FEMA issues a finding.
There will likely be a second request due to the subsequent record flooding across the state. FEMA and state emergency management assessment teams are reviewing individual assistance reports from homeowners who were displaced and suffered damages as a result of that flooding event. Next week, assessment teams will be working in 27 impact counties to gather public assistance reports for flooding damage to local infrastructure such as government buildings, public utilities, roadways and highways.
Residents with questions or additional reports of flood damage should contact their local county emergency management agency. For clean-up assistance, Kentuckians can contact the Kentucky Floods Cleanup Hotline at 800-451-1954 through March 26.