Mountain Kentucky


It’s a new week in Frankfort, but the same issue -pensions- was heard inside and outside the capitol. Tension continued Monday over pension reform.

Stu Johnson

A second day of testimony on medical marijuana legislation took place in Frankfort Tuesday afternoon.  The legislation is on the agenda again for Wednesday’s legislative committee meeting.

Gov. Matt Bevin and Congressman Hal Rogers this weekend announced plans for a $3.4 million water project in eastern Kentucky.  In all, more than four and a half million dollars will go to address long standing problems in one Appalachian community.

Another rainy weekend is probably the last thing residents in some nine southeast Kentucky counties want to see.  Citizens in counties like Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Knot, and Knox are still trying to recover from last weekend’s five inches of rain that came down in just 24 hours. 

Jackson Weather Service Meteorologist Kevin Sullivan says, at this point, no additional flooding is anticipated this weekend.  But, he admits, it wouldn’t take much slow moving rain to cause concern.

Southeast Kentucky Communities Weigh Flood Damage

Feb 12, 2018

Citizens in nine southeast Kentucky counties are beginning to assess the impact of widespread weekend flooding.  Damage estimates may available by midweek.

Five inches of rain fell over a 24 hour period in portions of  Kentucky.  One of the harder hit counties was Harlan.  County Judge Dan Mosely estimates water got into more than ten homes.  He says residents of the Tremont community were affected. “Basically the tile that goes from a community to the river, the water couldn’t get out because the water was so high,” said Mosely  “And, it create like a dam affect.”

Dave Stawicki-Sierra Club

A significant day in the history of Kentucky's Red River Gorge will be celebrated this weekend. 

It’s the 50th anniversary of a historic hike in the gorge.

Stu Johnson

The fourth Shaping Our Appalachian Region Summit featured updates on efforts to reinvigorate economies in more than 50 southeastern Kentucky counties. 

They included reports on broadband, workforce training, and a high tech agricultural plan. 

But, the event Friday also provided an avenue for Appalachian expression.

Stu Johnson

Hundreds of people gathered Friday in Pikeville's East Kentucky Expo Center for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region Summit.  

They heard status reports on topics ranging from high tech greenhouse plans to aerospace manufacturing and workforce training expansion.

Pikeville to Host 4th SOAR Summit

Aug 3, 2017

Hundreds of people will converge on downtown Pikeville Friday for the 4th Shaping Our Appalachian Region Summit. 

The overall objective continues to be rebuilding economies in 54 Southeastern Kentucky counties.

Ribbon Cut for Renovated Lodge at Jenny Wiley Park

Jun 22, 2017

Kentucky officials cut the ribbon  Wednesday on a $1.7 million renovated lodge at Prestonburg’s Jenny Wiley State Park. 

State park officials hope to see an increase in conference and tourism activity this summer.

A site in eastern Kentucky is set to serve as the home for future development of drones, robots and unmanned vehicles. As Government and education leaders revealed plans for the USA Drone Port: National Unmanned Robotic Research and Development Center Monday in Hazard.

Miner Killed at Surface Mine is Kentucky's 2nd Coal Death

Mar 31, 2017

An accident at a southeastern Kentucky surface coal mine killed a 33-year-old miner, the state's second mining death this year.

Joseph W. Partin of Williamsburg, died early Thursday morning when a section of exposed rock fell on him at a mine in Whitley County. Partin was doing maintenance work on an auger when the 15-foot-tall rock section fell.

Kentucky's second mining death matched the state's total from last year. A release from Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet said mining operations were shut down at the site and officials remained on the scene Thursday morning.

President Trump’s first effort at a federal budget calls for elimination of funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission.  The director of the Appalachian Center at Berea College worries, if enacted, the president’s spending plan would have negative impacts on southeastern Kentucky.  


The "skinny budgets" offered by first-term presidents often include wish lists of spending requests and basic economic projections.  The Trump proposal includes funding cuts to a number of agencies including the Appalachian Regional Commission. 

An employee of a western Kentucky mine has been indicted by a federal grand jury for falsifying safety records and lying to inspectors.

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.