Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is asking the federal government for an expedited disaster declarion in the wake of the deadly storms that tore across the commonwealth Friday. Beshear’s office announced the disaster declaration request this afternoon:
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 4, 2012) – Governor Steve Beshear is formally requesting an expedited major disaster declaration from President Obama after a barrage of deadly tornadoes and damaging storms struck Kentucky on Friday.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the damages to our state are so heavy that we will qualify for federal disaster aid,” Gov. Beshear said. “To speed that process, today, I am sending President Obama notification that I am formally requesting a federal disaster declaration.”
By requesting the declaration now, Kentucky can expedite the process of getting Federal Emergency Management Agency assessment and assistance teams into communities that need it most, Gov. Beshear said.
“There are several kinds of federal assistance – including help for local governments, for small businesses and for individuals,” Gov. Beshear said. “We’ll maintain close communication with our federal partners so we can get that information out to our communities quickly as federal assistance is authorized.”
Gov. Beshear talked yesterday with President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the devastation from the storms in Kentucky.
Gov. Beshear, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, National Guard officials and lawmakers yesterday toured parts of Kentucky hit hardest by the storms.
“While traveling several of our worst hit counties yesterday, I met some of the people who survived this unbelievably strong band of storms,” Gov. Beshear said. “I’m heartbroken by the destruction these tornadoes brought to our homes and businesses, and for the families who are mourning the loss of loved ones.”
The Governor has deployed nearly 400 National Guard troops to assist with security, traffic control and other needs in affected counties.
Local emergency officials and National Guard troops have completed search and rescue efforts in all our affected counties, Gov. Beshear said. The Department of Public Health is reporting 21 fatalities from the storm, and more than 300 injuries. The fatalities include five in Laurel County, seven in Morgan County, three in Kenton County, two in Johnson County, two in Menifee County, and two in Lawrence County.
Kentucky Emergency Management is receiving calls from people trying to locate loved ones. People seeking to locate friends or relatives in affected areas should register a person’s information on the Kentucky Emergency Management website at kyem.ky.gov. The information will go to local emergency management teams, who will attempt to locate them. Information can also be provided to the Red Cross’ “Safe and Well” program, by visiting www.americanredcross.org.
The Governor has directed state agencies to ensure that state services, such as access to food stamps or other benefits, remain available and uninterrupted.
The Kentucky Department for Community Based Services has arranged a temporary office in Morgan County after the state branch office was damaged on Friday. The temporary office is located at Old Wrigley School, 87 Redwine Road in West Liberty.
The Kentucky Department of Financial Institutions is working with management teams of three storm-damaged banks in West Liberty to ensure customers have ready access to their money and other banking services.
Rain and snow are predicted for many areas of Kentucky tonight. The Transportation Cabinet will be working to maintain roads to ensure that emergency workers can access affected areas.
The Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction has dispatched five general inspectors to assist with building assessments in counties hit by storms.
Disaster response teams with the Kentucky Department of Insurance are working with counties about claim information and monitoring responses of insurance companies to ensure an adequate number of adjusters are on the ground. For more information, view www.insurance.ky.gov or call 1-800-595-6053.
(Photo of West Liberty, Kentucky tornado damage courtesy of the Kentucky National Guard)