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Beshear tours flooded areas in Southeastern Kentucky, provides briefing on response efforts

Gov. Andy Beshear and local leaders provided an update on the emergency management and relief response to flooding events in Southeastern Kentucky during a Thursday briefing at the London Joint Readiness Center.

Joined by Senate President Robert Stivers, of Manchester; Senator Johnny Ray Turner, of Prestonsburg; Rep. Adam Bowling, of Middlesboro; Michael Dossett, director of the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management (KYEM), Beshear hosted a briefing for local county judge executives and emergency management professionals. They also assessed impacted areas by helicopter.

The briefing, held in accordance with state emergency management guidelines, aimed to inform local officials on how best to access and respond to recent flooding events, for which Beshear issued a state of emergency Feb. 7.

Gov. Andy Beshear

“There is nothing more serious than how we show up for, respond to and address the health and safety of our communities, especially in a time of need,” Beshear said. “We are in constant contact and coordinating the response with local, state and federal emergency management officials to protect our people in Southeastern Kentucky.”

To date, KYEM has received 10 county and seven-city state of emergency declarations. County declarations are: Bell, Clay, Harlan, Knox, Lawrence, Leslie, Letcher, McCreary, Perry and Whitley. City declarations are: Whitesburg, Williamsburg, Pineville, Middlesboro, Hazard, Jenkins and Hyden.

“The division remains in contact with all federal and state partners to assess any incoming flooding threats or requests for resources,” Dossett said. “Please be aware of first responders in your area.”

“I truly appreciate this opportunity to travel to these hard-hit areas of Eastern Kentucky with Gov. Beshear and my colleagues in the General Assembly,” Stivers said. “This region is my home, and it is of the upmost importance to me to view the flood damage firsthand. I want my fellow Eastern Kentuckians to know that Frankfort is paying close attention to this urgent situation.”

“I want to thank Gov. Beshear for quickly declaring a state of emergency,” Turner said. “The flooding damage has been extensive and the people of Southeast Kentucky need help from Frankfort. I’m committed to working with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Management to get our people the resources they need.”

“Our region is undergoing some of the worst flooding on record,” Bowling said. “It will take time and resources to recover, but the people of Southeastern Kentucky will repair the damage and replace what has been lost. I appreciate that the Governor has designated this as a state of emergency and that he continues to work with us to do what we can for our communities.”

Along with detailing the emergency response, Beshear pointed to the effort of many organizations and agencies that are working swiftly to respond and provide information to protect Kentuckians and assist with the recovery.

Beshear listed ways others are helping to respond to flooding needs, which include the state working with:

-The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, to provide sand bags and pumps to flood areas and working on lake forecast and water discharge releases from dams.

-The American Red Cross, to provide assistance to operate shelters in the impacted flood area for citizens displaced from their homes. Two shelters remain open, one in Bell County and one in Harlan County.

-Search and rescue teams, assisting with more than 100 high water rescues and evacuations from flooded areas during the height of the flash flooding.

Beshear said state agencies are also responding:

-Kentucky National Guard units on alert to provide support.

-Transportation crews monitoring and closing roads, and providing bottled water to Knox County in response to a major water outage.

-Department of Public Health encouraging Kentuckians to be up-to-date for a tetanus vaccine to better treat any wound that might occur during clean-up efforts.

-Department of Public Health and Transportation Cabinet issuing warnings to remind Kentuckians to never enter floodwaters unless they are escaping immediate danger and avoid downed power lines and natural gas and propane systems leaks.

-Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet working to help Kentuckians avoid hazards including, burning of debris, asbestos removal and mold growth. The cabinet asks local officials to contact the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection regional offices for information on proper recycling of debris.

Beshear also issued an executive order implementing Kentucky’s price-gouging laws. The emergency order triggers Kentucky’s consumer protection measures for 30 days. The protective measures may be extended beyond 30 days if needed. If anyone has information regarding possible price gouging, they should contact the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Hotline at 888-432-9257.

Cumberland Falls was one of the flooded areas in Southeastern Kentucky. (Photo from Kentucky Today)

Beshear concluded his briefing by asking citizens to report any damages or needs to their county Office of Emergency Management director. The Kentucky Emergency Management division also has a volunteer coordinator who works with numerous agencies to identify and obtain response and recovery assistance for citizens and communities after a disaster event.

To report weather-related damage, please contact your local emergency management office. For information about KYEM operations, please contact Monica French at (502) 607-5721.

To download a copy of Beshear’s State of Emergency executive order, click here. A copy of the executive order on price gouging can be found here.

For more information about public health issues related to flooding, visit cdc.gov or healthalert.ky.gov.

Beshear also thanked everyone supporting the emergency effort including Kentucky National Guard members, state and local officials, transportation cabinet employees, emergency responders and local relief organizations.

From Office of the Governor

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