Gov. Andy Beshear is asking President Joe Biden to issue a major disaster declaration for Kentucky in regards to the severe winter storm system that impacted Kentucky from Feb. 8 – Feb. 19, 2021, and for public assistance for 44 counties, including: Whitley, Laurel and McCreary counties.
Beshear issued a State of Emergency Order on Feb. 11. A total of 59 counties and 38 cities likewise issued local state of emergency orders.
“The impacts of February’s ice and rain events were significant,” 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 artic 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.
The Kentucky National Guard was activated, with 90 personnel assisting with the clearing of roadways, evacuating at-risk citizens and conducting wellness checks.
Beshear’s request Friday seeks public assistance for the following other counties, including: Bath, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Marion, Martin, Menifee, Mercer, Morgan, Montgomery, Nicholas, Nelson, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Wayne, 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.
Whitley County Projects Director Amber Owens noted that Whitley County was fortunate in that most of the damage occurred north of here, but there were at least two places that the county may request funding for so that a permanent repair can be made.
“Whitley County has received millions of dollars in the last few years to make permanent repairs to areas that see repeated flood and landslide damage. That funding is due to disaster declarations. This funding provides much needed resources to our county and allows us to make permanent repairs in places that will improve those areas for years to come,” Owens noted.
Just last week, the Whitley County Fiscal Court voted to award $445,975.29 worth of bids on eight total projects to repair damage from the Feb. 16, 2020, disaster.
Beshear’s request for a federal disaster declaration and FEMA assistance for this year’s disaster is drawing bi-partisan support.
Kentucky’s congressional delegation has sent a joint letter to President Biden in support of Beshear’s request for a federal major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Kentucky following severe ice storms in February that left behind massive damage in several counties.
“The arctic temperatures combined with the damaging ice and snow has caused dangerous road conditions, significant vegetative debris, power outages for more than 152,000 people, and interruption of water systems resulting in severe impacts to transportation, infrastructure, and property,” members stated in the letter. “On February 11, 2021, Governor Beshear issued a State of Emergency for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, but additional assistance is necessary at this time.”
With dozens of families displaced by recent storms and limited state and local resources to repair and rebuild every community, the delegation expressed the dire need for prompt approval of federal aid.
“Unfortunately, six deaths have been confirmed due to the weather and road conditions across the Commonwealth. The citizens of Kentucky need federal resources to respond to these damaging events. For this reason, we urge you to also approve requests for assistance for those Kentuckians hit hardest by these weather disasters. Access to this critical federal assistance will help expedite the disaster relief efforts occurring across the Commonwealth,” the letter stated.