Legalizing industrial hemp would create enforcement and perception problems for Kentucky, the head of a federal drug enforcement agency says. Ed Shemelya, a former Kentucky State Police commander and head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, testified Wednesday against legislative proposals that would make marijuana’s botanical cousin available for harvest.
The Kentucky Department of Revenue will honor recently announced Internal Revenue Service special tax relief for taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Areas who were victims of severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding that started on Feb. 29. As of March 13, President Barack Obama has declared Bath, Campbell, Carroll, Grant, Grayson, Johnson, Kenton, LaRue, Laurel, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Ohio, Pendleton, Rowan, Russell, Trimble and Wolfe counties federal disaster areas.
Kentuckians in the 21 counties who have lost work or whose businesses were damaged due to severe weather that occurred Feb. 29 – March 3 may be eligible for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA).The counties in which DUA is currently available are: Bath, Campbell, Carroll, Grant, Grayson, Kenton, Johnson, LaRue, Lawrence, Laurel, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Ohio, Pendleton, Rowan, Russell, Trimble and Wolfe. The deadline to apply is April 16.
An example of an energy efficient home manufactured in a converted houseboat factory in Monticello, Ky. The UK College of Design and Center for Applied Energy Research hope the houses will be an affordable alternative to mobile homes.
Credit Kentucky Public Radio.
A local architect says it’s no coincidence that some of the worst storm damage in Eastern Kentucky occurred to people in mobile homes. Michael Jacobs, with Omni Architects in Lexington, says his firm is working with the UK College of Design, Kentucky Highlands Corporation, and others, on a major project that could eventually bring sturdier, more affordable, and energy-efficient housing to rural areas of the state.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has been notified by President Barack Obama that five more counties are eligible for federal disaster relief bringing the total count to 21 counties. Residents from Grayson, Larue, Ohio, Russell and Trimble counties are the latest to be granted federal relief following the March 2 storms that damaged several regions.
As Kentucky school district’s that have cancelled classes due to storm damage expect to begin classes this week, some districts are forced to become creative to provide space where students can learn. Four eastern and northern districts have been out of class for a week. Meniffe and Wolfe County schools are now back in session. In Magoffin County Schools, a middle and high school will merge and four of their five schools will resume classes in a week.
Frankfort - The Office of the State Budget Director reported Monday that February's General Fund tax receipts grew nearly 4 percent compared to February of last year, an increase of more than $21 million. Total revenues for the month were more than $574 million compared to nearly $553 million a year ago. Receipts have grown nearly 4 percent for the first four months of fiscal year 2012, according to a press release from state Budget Director Mary Lassiter.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is traveling to through counties in eastern Kentucky hit by severe weather to deliver supplies and assist with the relief effort. Grimes is being accompanied by a group that includes the director of the state board of elections and business filings, who are meeting with county clerks and business owners to assess damage and formulate a plan to help in the long-term recovery.
The century-old Morgan County Courthouse, left, in West Liberty was heavily damaged by the tornado Friday, as was the unfinished new justice center being built behind it
Credit The Herald-Leader
Joleen Frederick Phipps, the Morgan County attorney, stood on the sidewalk clutching one of her few possessions that wasn't smashed or blown away when the tornado ripped through her hometown. The figurine had been a gift from her late sister-in-law, and she had just found it unharmed in the rubble of her office, across Main Street from the shattered courthouse and not far from her demolished home. "We're all still in shock," Phipps said. "Our town was struggling before this. These little businesses along Main Street were barely making it. But this is a close county; everybody here cares. We will come back."
Both southbound lanes of Interstate 75 have been shut down indefinitely across the Tennessee border due to collapse of the underlying embankment. The Tennessee Department of Transportation reports that earth under the interstate has continued to move since the collapse was discovered on Thursday. To ensure the safety of the motoring public, traffic on I-75 Southbound will be detoured until the interstate can be repaired, according to a press release from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Scammers posing as government officials may be the newest threat, but plots to trick people out of their money come in all shapes and sizes. One woman reported receiving several calls from different individuals claiming to be federal attorneys or officials, and insisting she had an unpaid bill. The scam bears a resemblance to a phone scheme that has grown in scope in more than a dozen U.S. states in recent months, according to an FBI press release. Persons claiming to be officers of the court call to inform you that you have missed jury duty and must pay a fine or risk being arrested. Such calls may sound official, but don’t be duped.
Gov. Steve Beshear Thursday announced the award of an emergency contract to repair and reopen the damaged Eggners Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake by Memorial Day weekend – saving the crucial summer tourism season for the region around Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The contract, with a low bid of $7 million, was awarded by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to Hall Contracting of Kentucky Inc. – the company that last month completed repairs ahead of schedule to reopen the Interstate-64 Sherman Minton Bridge in Louisville.
Industrial hemp could make a comeback as one of Kentucky’s top cash crops if lawmakers legalize the harvest of marijuana’s botanical cousin, legislators have told a House committee. The Agricultural and Small Business Committee on Wednesday heard from key sponsors of two pieces of legislation –House bills 272 and 286 – that would make hemp a legal crop if the federal government lifts restrictions on it. The bills didn’t come to a vote, but Rep. Tom McKee, a Cynthiana Democrat and the committee’s chairman, said the discussion would continue so both sides of the argument could be heard.
Kentucky State Police arrested four men Wednesday on charges of stealing metal storm debris in a restricted area of East Bernstadt in Laurel County. Troopers said that the four were seen taking tin and aluminum siding, which they apparently intended to sell for scrap. According to officers, the four men were allowed into the restricted area at East Bernstadt to assist with cleanup from last week's storms, and they had been directed to place debris by the edge of the roadway.
A Lexington-based non-profit organization has started a fund to help storm affected Eastern Kentuckians get started rebuilding their lives once relief workers leave the area. While the cleanup and damage assessments continue in storm-ravaged Eastern Kentucky, a non-profit group in Central Kentucky is starting a fund to help communities rebuild what has been lost.
Few people can easily cope with the financial burden created by natural disasters. And many victims may be tempted by the quick and easy access to cash promised by pay day lenders. In eastern Kentucky, some firms this week launched special marketing efforts that target disaster areas. Among the volunteers helping in the region’s recovery is Skip Little, who’s a financial planner from Berea. Little advises folks to steer clear of the bait.
Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson today are visiting additional storm-damaged areas hit by Friday’s tornadoes and severe storms. Beshear will travel to Menifee, Morgan and Laurel counties, and Abramson will travel to Lawrence and Johnson counties. This is the second time Kentucky’s top two state officials have surveyed storm-related areas.
Swarms of onlookers, volunteers and, in a few instances, looters have posed a big challenge for emergency responders after the tornadoes that devastated Kentucky last Friday, local leaders said at a meeting Tuesday. Emergency responders have received praise from residents on up to the governor in their response to the severe storms, which killed four in Kenton County and 22 statewide. But county leaders on Tuesday said they will look at how they might better handle the large crowds that come in the wake of a disaster.
Downtown West Liberty was full of activity Tuesday amid the devastation as repair work continued. Residents and business owners were allowed into the area for the first time since Friday's storm
Credit The Herald-Leader
President Obama issued a major disaster declaration for Kentucky on Tuesday night, triggering the release of federal funds to help people recover from the storms in the state last week. The president's action makes federal funding available to businesses and residents in Johnson, Kenton, Laurel, Lawrence, Menifee, Morgan, and Pendleton counties. Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses. Earlier Tuesday, residents and business owners re-entered the devastated Morgan County seat for the first time since Friday's deadly tornadoes.
The Kentucky Emergency Management Center in Frankfort urged people Tuesday to donate cash to help tornado victims instead of such goods as clothing, water and food. If people want to donate items, they are encouraged to donate through groups like the Salvation Army or the Christian Appalachian Project, which coordinate with state and federal officials and have storage to hold collected items until needed. Do not give to small groups that head out to the hard-hit areas to distribute the materials because many communities have been deluged and don't have storage space, said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the emergency center. Financial donations were encouraged.
Volunteers helped clear debris and look for salvageable belongings in what was once a mobile home owned by Aaron Keith. The mobile home was destroyed 2/29/2012 when a suspected tornado moved through Russell County.
Credit Bill Estep/The Herald-Leader
Claims for damage from Friday's round of deadly tornadoes and hailstorms are pouring into Kentucky insurance agents by the thousands. By mid-afternoon Monday, Kentucky Farm Bureau, one of the state's largest property insurers, had received more than 9,000 claims, said Greg Kosse, a spokesman for Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance. "We anticipate those numbers are going to go up significantly," Kosse said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Monday toured the homes in southern Kenton County devastated by the severe storm on Friday that produced the EF3 tornado. Storm victims might get federal aid within a week if President Barack Obama declares a federal emergency, officials said. Gov. Steve Beshear has requested an expedited federal disaster declaration. FEMA will inspect damage in Grant County on Tuesday and might also inspect Pendleton County, officials said.
Friday's tornado as it approached West Liberty. Kent Nickell photographed the tornado from his yard on Riverside Drive in West Liberty as it approached the city.
Credit Kent Nickell
A killer tornado probably traveled more than 90 miles as it shredded houses and toppled trees in a path that stretched 60 miles through Kentucky and more than 30 miles into West Virginia, according to the National Weather Service. The tornado started in Menifee County, then ripped through Morgan County, the northern tip of Johnson County and Lawrence County before crossing into West Virginia, said Shawn Harley, chief meteorologist for the Jackson office of the weather service.
While the Red Cross and other relief agencies concentrate on fundraising on behalf of storm relief efforts, Kentucky State Police are collecting all manner of supplies to aid in the cleanup and recovery across the Commonwealth. KSP spokesman, Lieutenant David Jude says all 16 posts have been designated as drop-off areas where people can donate badly needed items.
Some individuals and organizations are focused on helping their fellow Kentucky residents recover from deadly weather that hit Eastern Kentucky on Friday. Central Kentucky was largely spared from the destructive force of the tornadoes that killed at least 21 people and injured hundreds more in Morgan, Menifee and other counties, but Kelly Votaw of Harrodsburg has first-hand experience with the aftermath of the devastating weather events. She was part of a group that went to Joplin, Mo., last year to help with the massive recovery effort there and is currently working from the list of items that were needed there in the immediate aftermath.
It could be a week before some portions of Kentucky again have electricity. Major portions of eastern Kentucky remain without power. Public Service Commission spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says the most widespread power outages remain in Morgan and Magoffin counties. But, in both communities, power will be restored, but, many of the people and homes that use it are gone. “You’ll have the electrical system restored before you’ve got habital structures that need to have the power turned back on, quite honestly…that’s the sad truth of this situation,” said Melnykovych.
More than 9,000 Kentucky electric customers are still without electricity as of Monday morning as a result of Friday's storms. But several inches of heavy, wet snow has also knocked out power to more than 6,000 electric customers - primarily in Central Kentucky - on Monday morning. Among the storm-related outages, Kentucky Power/AEP has the largest number of customer outages: Floyd County, 223; Johnson County, 809; Lawrence County, 685; Magoffin 1,235; and Morgan, 1,260.
Volunteer firefighter Aaron Stamper and Olivia Gronlund pick through debris looking for personal belongings for their friends Beverly and Ronnie Bowman whose house was destroyed on Opossum Hollow Road.
Credit David Stephenson/Lexington Herald-Leader
Scores of volunteers have surged into Menifee County to clear roads of fallen trees, secure people's property and begin cleanup after Friday's tornado swept through this rural area. By 6:30 a.m. Sunday, Marietta Flannery was in the kitchen of Botts Elementary School on Ky. 460 with a half-dozen volunteers to start cooking breakfast for displaced families and work crews. County leaders met at 9 a.m. Sunday in the fire station to draft a plan of action that would ensure the best use of volunteers. "You can't give nobody enough credit for what they're doing. I can't say enough for how citizens have pitched in to help," Menifee County Sheriff's Deputy Donnie Fugett said.
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: