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Beshear asks federal government to declare major disaster for February’s winter storm system

Big Sandy RECC crews on Route 1092 in Flatgap, Kentucky (Johnson County)
Big Sandy RECC crews on Route 1092 in Flatgap, Kentucky (Johnson County)(Big Sandy RECC)
Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 5:34 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Gov. Andy Beshear has asked President Biden that a Major Disaster Declaration be issued for the severe winter storm system that impacted Kentucky from February 8 through February 19.

Gov. Beshear issued a State of Emergency Order on February 11, 2021. Fifty-nine counties and 38 cities likewise issued local states of emergency orders.

“The impacts of February’s ice and rain events were significant,” Gov. Beshear said. “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 system 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 produced from the weather system left 154,500 Kentucky homes without power at the height of the event. There were four confirmed casualties attributed to the event.

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 Michael Dossett, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM). “Our eastern counties were hit hardest and in some cases, homeowners were without power for many days”

“With the Governor’s submission today, 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,” Dossett added.

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 review of the damages and the estimated repair costs. Following the submission of the request for a federal declaration, the decision process typically takes thirty days before FEMA issues a finding.

In the separate incidence of record flooding across the commonwealth, FEMA and KYEM assessment teams are presently 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.

Kentuckians 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, 2021.

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