Less than two weeks after Gov. Andy Beshear requested a major disaster declaration from the federal government, President Joe Biden approved the request late Wednesday and ordered federal assistance to support Kentucky communities with recovery from devastating winter storms.
“This declaration will make sure Kentuckians and our communities have the necessary resources to rebuild after the devastating ice storm that hit in February,” Gov. Beshear said. “Thank you to President Biden and FEMA for their assistance, and thank you to the many state and local agencies and organizations who are leading the recovery and rebuilding efforts in our hard-hit communities.”
President Biden issued a Major Disaster Declaration in response to Gov. Beshear’s March 19 request for assistance for the severe winter storms that impacted Kentucky from February 8 through February 19, 2021. The Governor issued a State of Emergency Order on February 11, 2021. Fifty-nine counties and 38 cities likewise issued local state of emergency orders.
The President ordered federal assistance to supplement recovery efforts by the commonwealth and local communities affected by the severe weather. Federal funding is available to the commonwealth, to eligible local governments and to certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures.
The weather system produced heavy rain, hail, sleet, freezing rain, ice and bitter arctic air, which caused impassable roadways, massive power outages, water system failures, landslides, mudslides and disruption of critical government services.
The ice storm produced from the system left 154,500 Kentucky homes without power at the height of the event. There were four (4) confirmed casualties attributed to the event.
The Kentucky National Guard was activated, with 90 personnel assisting with the clearing of roadways, evacuating at-risk citizens and conducting wellness checks.
Gov. Beshear and Senior Advisor Rocky Adkins visited Eastern Kentucky in February to view the damage, meet with local leaders on the emergency response efforts and talk to those most affected, including those at the warming center at the Boyd County Community Center in Catlettsburg.
The federal Disaster Declaration includes public assistance for the counties of Bath, Boyd, Boyle, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clark, Clay, Clinton, Elliott, Estill, Fleming, Floyd, Garrard, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Marion, Martin, McCreary, Menifee, Mercer, Morgan, Montgomery, Nicholas, Nelson, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Wayne, Whitley and Wolfe. Damages assessed by state, local and federal representatives are projected to exceed $30 million. A request for additional counties may follow as damage assessments are ongoing.
“We appreciate President Biden’s timely award of a major disaster declaration, in response to Gov. Beshear’s request of March 19,” said Michael Dossett, director of Kentucky Emergency Management. “With the federal assistance, our counties and power utilities will be able to repair the catastrophic damages to our electrical infrastructure as a result of the February severe weather and ice storm event.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance Program will provide funding to eligible applicants for allowable costs associated with debris removal, emergency protective actions and restoration of impacted infrastructure.
In addition, all areas in the Commonwealth of Kentucky are eligible for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides assistance for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.
In the separate incidence of record flooding across the commonwealth, FEMA has completed damage assessments of over 2,100 homes examining requests for federal support of individual assistance. FEMA is in the last phase of reviewing damage assessments for impacts to over 40 county infrastructures. Gov. Beshear will submit an application for a second federal disaster declaration immediately upon learning of completion of the findings.
Residents with questions or additional reports of flood damage should contact their local county emergency management agency.