Mountain Kentucky

Most state fire crews pulled out of southeastern Kentucky Wednesday leaving local departments to manage the mop up.

Not all the fires in Appalachian Kentucky are out, but Division of Forestry Spokesman Mark Weidewitsch said the remaining few are greatly pared down. More than 1,000 firefighters and forestry and National Guard units have been on the job since Nov. 3.

Bluegrass citizens heading to Eastern Kentucky this Thanksgiving weekend may find travel different than last year.  Construction teams and local residents near Salyersville are celebrating the completion of a two-mile stretch of the Mountain Parkway Expansion.

Project Manager Marshall Carrier said it’s an eye-catcher.  “When you get into the Gifford Road area,” he said, “the world opens up and it really looks like a whole other part of the world for the people that are accustomed to coming through that particular corridor."

Crews battling wildfires in southeastern Kentucky are seeing progress but travel in smoky areas remains a concern.

Kentucky Division of Forestry Spokesman Mark Weidewitsch calls the current firefighting strategy as in the “mop up stage.”  With weekend rains and a little more forecast for midweek, Weidewitsch hopes state personnel can be relieved and only local crews will be needed to fight fires by Thanksgiving. 


Crews Battling Fires, Wind in Southeastern Ky

Nov 18, 2016

High temperatures and winds are complicating efforts at fighting ongoing wildfires across Kentucky but a weekend forecast of rain could provide some relief.

Kentucky Emergency Management’s Buddy Rogers said Friday that 54 fires are actively burning on 28,000 acres. More than half of those are on federal forest land. 

Southeastern Kentucky residents should keep an ear tuned for any alerts.  Rogers said people should “closely monitor their local media, weather alert radios, certainly their smart phones.”

Wild fires continue to rage in Southeastern, Kentucky representing a 664 percent increase in November fires over 2015. Five hundred people are still fighting the flames.

So far this month, 130 wild fires have burned almost 15,000 acres in the 16 counties. State Division of Forestry Spokesman Mark Weidewitsch said at this point last year, 17 fires consumed 200 acres.  

Only one structure has been lost, Weidewitsch said. Local volunteer fire departments work to preserve structures, he said, allowing state firefighters to focus on wild fires.

Broadband Projects Sought for Southeastern Ky

Nov 11, 2016

Job-creating projects based on broadband technology are being sought in 26 Southeastern Kentucky counties. Officials with the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation will review the ideas.  The Request for Proposals is now available on line at SKED’S website. 

Corporation Director Brett Traver says the selected projects will be able to leverage broadband infrastructure.  He says the barrier for the entry of ideas is set low, “From that, we’ll take those ideas, however many we get, and start funneling them down until we reach three to five really good ideas."

Progress is being made in fighting wildland fires in southeastern Kentucky.  As of late Sunday, there were 21 fires burning in nine Kentucky counties. 

Division of Forestry Spokesman Mark Wiedewitsch says, over the last several days, there have been as many as 30 fires.  He expects about 400 firefighters to be working the fires Monday. 

Wiedewitsch says that's a substantial number of people trying to contain the fires, "The state is handling it now with as much of the resource we have available at our fingertips."

Wildland fires in southeastern Kentucky forests involving thousands of acres are keeping firefighters busy this week.  The situation is complicated by the fact that inadequate rainfall is expected to help douse the fires.

State Division of Forestry Assistant Fire Chief Mike Harp says crews are working about twice as many fires compared to this time last year.  Woodland fires in sections of Pine Mountain and Letcher County exceed 1000 acres.

More than a hundred people will be looking for novel ways to address three key health-related issues this weekend in Somerset.  It’s called an Appalachian Health ‘Hack-a-thon’.

The Hacking Medicine program developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has held 40 such events worldwide.  The idea is to convene people with different backgrounds on teams to develop recommendations for fighting substance abuse, obesity, and diabetes.

Kentucky’s fall forest fire hazard season officially begins Saturday. Some eastern Kentucky wildfires have already broken out.

Officials with the State Division of Forestry say nearly 1500 wildfires occur each year across Kentucky.  Division Assistant Director Steve Kull says a relatively wet summer has given way to some drying.  “We’ve actually had a couple of small fires already, which is not typical.  And, that’s an indicators that it is dry out there,” said Kull.

Morehead Pride Organizer Pleased with Inaugural Fest

Aug 29, 2016

The executive director of Morehead Pride says he was particularly pleased at the number of young people who attended the town’s first festival to celebrate the LGBT community. 

David Moore says there were activities all day long, some put on by other organizations, "I think it’s important for Eastern Kentucky because a lot of time you feel like you don’t really have that support, but you actually do, so it’s important to show visibility and have some awareness for that here." 

Flood Warning Signage Going Up in Eastern Kentucky Counties

Aug 15, 2016

10 flood warning signs are being placed in five eastern Kentucky counties.  Funding for the “turn around, don’t drown” signage comes from the National Weather Service.  Road signs have gone up in Bath County.   Jackson Meteorologist Tony Edwards says signs will also be installed in Breathitt, Johnson, Magoffin, and Owsley counties.  He says last year was the deadliest year for flood death in Kentucky  since 1997.  We had ten deaths across the state from flooding and those included deaths in Lee County, Madison County, and Johnson County,” said Edwards.

Berea Tops National Social Media Poll in Arts and Crafts

Jul 29, 2016


The city of Berea has taken top honors in a national social media contest.  The southern Madison County town tallied the highest vote total for its arts and crafts focus.

The U.S. Department of Labor is funding a grant that will help some coal miners in Eastern Kentucky as WEKU’s Brian Burkhart reports.

As coal restrictions and diminishing reserves have left thousands of miners without jobs, the grant of 3.4 million dollars will help retrain those affected by the job losses.    

Financial Training Part of Eastern Ky. Housing Program

May 9, 2016
Stu Johnson / WEKU News

    An Eastern Kentucky non-profit is helping low-income residents with major home repairs while also teaching family financial management. 

Jason Benedict, President of Good Neighbors, says families are encouraged to use a jar to collect money daily, funds that would have gone for eating out or a sugary beverage.  

East Ky. Leadership Conference Looks at Reshaping Regional Economy

Apr 25, 2016

This week’s East Kentucky Leadership Conference will continue the discussion about redefining the Appalachian economy.   Sessions Thursday and Friday in Morehead will cover topics ranging from broadband to 3D printing and drones. 

Eastern Kentucky University Regional Stewardship Coordinator Melissa Newman says the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative is causing some introspection, “Because our economy is not just regional any more, it is becoming global.”  Newman emphasizes that there’s a need to consider new ideas and see what’s working and what’s not working.

Kentucky Mostly Spared From Turbulent Holiday Weather

Dec 28, 2015

There’s been a significant temperature variance in Kentucky from one section to another in recent days.  A meteorologist with the Jackson National Weather Service office says Kentucky has largely dodged weather related issues so far.  But Chuck Greis says many states west of the commonwealth have not been so lucky.  “We’ve been spared this event for the most part, compared to the rest of the country, especially the southern plains,” said Greis.

Sewer Deal Not Expected to Slow Knott County Project

Dec 23, 2015

The State Public Service Commission is backing a sewer system transfer in eastern Kentucky.  The PSC order approves the acquisition of the Troublesome Creek Environmental Authority’s sewer system by the Knott County Water and Sewer District.  PSC Spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says the deal will not impact a sewer line extension project.  “Troublesome Creek is gonna continue expanding sewer lines in that highway 80 corridor and once that project is complete, it will turned over to Knott County as well to operate,” explained Melnykovych.

Southeast Kentucky Road Crews Prepare for Snow

Nov 25, 2015

While temperatures are anticipated to climb over Thanksgiving holiday, workers in the southeastern Kentucky transportation office are still preparing for snow removal duties.  Les Dixon is with the District 11 office. He says preparations have been underway for several weeks. “We’ve been inspecting the snow plows since October along with calibrating the salt spreading equipment,” said Dixon.  “We’ve also been developing snow storm response procedures to keep our district 11 state roads passable during inclement weather.”

Kentucky Adds to ‘Trail Town’ Program

Nov 24, 2015

 The Harlan County cities of Lynch, Benham, and Cumberland are the newest additions to the Trail town program.  The state run initiative aims to bolster local economies through increased adventure tourism traffic. 

Kentucky Adventure Tourism Assistant Director Seth Wheat says efforts are made to count the number of out of town visitors, but he admits it can be challenging. 

Mountain Parkway Expansion Meeting to Focus on Two Options

Nov 10, 2015

Eastern Kentucky residents will have a chance next week to learn more about options for widening the Mountain Parkway between Salyersville and Prestonsburg.  One option would add two lanes along the existing corridor, and the other would be to develop a new route just north of Kentucky 114.

High Number of Accidents at Red River Gorge

Oct 15, 2015

Falls, some with tragic results, have been on the rise in central Kentucky’s Red River Gorge.  Recent accidents have kept members of the Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team busy.

In less than a week, two children went missing, an Ohio man fell to his death, and a female hiker survived a fall.  The Wolfe County Search and Rescue Team responded to two of those accidents.  Deputy Coordinator John May says the number of falls is up this year.  “You know our team specifically responds to 30 to 40 rescues a year and we have already exceeded that,” said May.

The Obama Administration has announced more than $14 million in federal grants to coalfields communities around the country. Nearly $6 million of that will go to Kentucky for economic development efforts, to be divided among state government initiatives, nonprofits and counties.

State Park Manager Gives 50-50 Chance of a Colorful Fall

Oct 2, 2015

    Mid-October is typically considered the peak period for viewing the changing colors in Kentucky trees.  It’s difficult to predict with any certainty the amount of color coming this fall.

Good Neighbors, Inc.

    It’s been over two months since an eastern Kentucky flash flood claimed lives, homes, and belongings.  The tiny community of Flatgap in Johnson County took a major hit.  WEKU's Stu Johnson visited one family in the area that's still working to pick of the pieces.


A Rowan County deputy clerk issued a marriage license to a same-sex couple Friday morning, ending a months-long protest from the office led by Clerk Kim Davis, who remains in jail on a contempt of court charge.

James Yates and William Smith Jr. were issued the license shortly after the clerk’s office opened in Morehead on Friday:


Blaze in Downtown Hazard Under Control, Firefighters Say

Sep 1, 2015
Erin Joseph / The Hazard Herald

A large structure fire in downtown Hazard continued to burn but was under control by 11:10 a.m. Tuesday.

Everyone had been evacuated from the burning building, which houses Peking Chinese Restaurant and apartments, and from the neighboring buildings, dispatcher James Durell said.

A Federal Communications Commission fund is paying $21 million annually to Windstream Communications Inc. to make broadband Internet service available to more than 62,000 rural homes and businesses in Kentucky. / Alpha Natural Resources Inc.

Coal producer Alpha Natural Resources Inc. has told 292 workers in Kentucky and Virginia they are losing their jobs.


Bluegrass music is an integral part of Kentucky's culture.  It routinely sounds out in formal and informal settings. That includes the weekly get-togethers at Carl and Norma's Lil' Opry House in Maytown.  The down-home venue in Morgan County has become a breeding ground for young musicians.

Every Tuesday night, local bluegrass musicians gather at the Maytown Opry for their weekly jam session. The small white building, formerly a grocery store, is lined with church pews, with an American flag hanging behind the stage.