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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
A camouflage hunting rifle was shattered in half, its scope and barrel possibly buried in rubble off Opossum Hollow Road. A queen-size mattress was wrapped around a post, and white dominoes littered the ground as friends and relatives of the Bowman family tried to collect what was left of their home on Saturday. One member of the family died and a second was at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital in surgery after a violent storm Friday night hopscotched over ridge lines in the Possum Hollow area of Menifee County, killing at least two people and injuring 50, Menifee County officials said early Saturday.
On Saturday morning, Merle Nickell did what he does most mornings: He took a walk near Old Mill Park. Except things had changed radically since his last walk. The town was barely recognizable after a storm that residents called a tornado struck Friday rearranging the face of the Morgan County seat. "There's so much destruction, it's just incomprehensible to me," said Nickell, 85. Four people — three in the county and one in West Liberty — died as a result of the storm, Kentucky State Police Lt. David Jude said Saturday.
An army of insurance agents and claims adjusters is scouring destruction along the tornadoes’ paths to begin assessing damage and processing claims. The wreckage is so widespread that the full scope of losses won’t be known until at least late March. “I grew up here, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Lori Wells, agent for the Kentucky Farm Bureau in Fort Mitchell. She was one of half a dozen Farm Bureau agents and adjusters surveying damage in southern Kenton County. The National Weather Service said an F3 tornado with winds between 158 and 206 mph is believed to have hit there. Hurricane strength winds start at 74 mph.
When the weatherman told Magoffin County residents to get to a safe place because a tornado was nearly upon them, Elezene Holbrook started down the steps into her basement. Sometime between the first step and the last, the apparent tornado passed directly over her house. "It was over so quick," said Holbrook, 90. "I didn't even have time to really get scared. Everything went to crashing, and then it was over."
Gov. Beshear Saturday signed an executive order that will allow Kentuckians displaced by the storms to get up to a 30-day supply of needed medicines from a pharmacist. This is the first time this particular executive order has been issued. People who depend on regular supplies of maintenance medicines may have lost track of their medications in the aftermath of the storms.
People across Kentucky and southern Indiana have begun the process of cleanup and repair from Friday’s massive tornado outbreak that killed more than 30 people in the two states, injured scores of others and left widespread destruction. The Red Cross’s Vicki Eichstaedt has been helping coordinate relief efforts in the devastated community of Henryville, Indiana.
Kentucky's death toll from a wave of violent storms Friday climbed steadily on Saturday, reaching 20 fatalities with an estimated 300 injured and at least one man missing. The storms were the worst to hit the eastern part of Kentucky in almost 25 years. EF3 tornados hit Magoffin, Menifee and Morgan counties, east of Lexington, and an EF2 tornado hit Laurel County, in southeastern Kentucky, the National Weather Service said. The EF scale, which goes from 0 to 5, rates tornadoes based on wind speed. An EF3 storm has speeds of 136 mph to 165 mph. An EF2 measures 111 mph to 135 mph. An EF2 or higher is considered a significant tornado.
FRANKFORT - Gov. Steve Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson are touring devastated areas across the state. The powerful storms caused widespread damage in 40 Kentucky counties. Beshear will view damages in West Liberty (Morgan County), Salyersville (Magoffin County), and Piner (Kenton County) Saturday along with Adjutant General Ed Tonini, Sen. Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, and Sen. Robert Stivers, of Manchester. Abramson will visit East Bernstadt in Laurel County.
Residents in Kentucky and southern Indiana are cleaning up after dozens of tornadoes touched down yesterday. Homes were demolished, and more than 20 people were killed. Some of the worst damage was in Clark County. In Marysville, the town’s post office and hardware store are still standing—but that’s about it. Only 10 miles away in Henryville, the combined elementary, junior and senior high school was demolished. Besides Clark County, Scott and Washington counties were also hit.
By Beth Musgrave and Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader
UPDATED: The death toll from a wave of violent weather that struck Kentucky Friday afternoon rose to 16 by Saturday at 9:30 a.m., with an estimated 300 injured, said Kentucky Army National Guard Specialist James Moore. The state was hit late Friday with severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, hail and torrential rains. The number of deaths and injuries have been climbing since late Friday, as officials have collected reports from various counties.
According to the Adair County Community Voice, Adair County escaped the worst of the storms that passed through Kentucky Friday. But a storm did close the Columbia Walmart. The thunderstorm dumped a large amount of hail in Adair County. The Louie B. Nunn Parkway was covered with hail Friday night. Photos showed the hail to be so thick it appeared almost as snow covering the ground and roadway.