President Joe Biden has issued 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.
Gov. Andy 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.
“This declaration will make sure Kentuckians and our communities have the necessary resources to rebuild after the devastating ice storm that hit in February,” Beshear said. “Thank you to President Biden and FEMA for their assistance, and thank you to the many state and local agencies and organizations who are leading the recovery and rebuilding efforts in our hard-hit communities.”
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.
The federal disaster declaration, which was issued April 1, includes 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.
Whitley County Projects Director Amber Owens noted previously 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.
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers said the assistance is badly needed.
“Our small county governments have been working on overdrive since early February to remove debris and repair roads, water and sewer lines, and other facilities that were damaged during the ice storms. This declaration provides emergency federal funding through FEMA to help pay for repairs and reimburse those unexpected costs that have been draining local county budgets,” said Rogers.