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Kentucky Leaders Respond To Regional Flooding

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Response from Kentucky leaders about flood recovery efforts, moved from the main article.

UPDATED 4:45 PM Thursday – Updates from Gov. Beshear’s Office

From Governor Beshear’s Office May 5:

Governor Steve Beshear announced that much of the lower Ohio River will crest today — two weeks after Kentucky began experiencing a successive system of storms that caused flooding, tornadoes and straight line winds throughout much of the state. The Mississippi River is projected to crest on Saturday.

Gov. Beshear also reminded residents that Kentucky’s flood disaster declaration has been granted by President Obama. Requests for Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation have been granted. All other requests are currently under review.

“The granting of federal assistance by the president will go a long way toward bringing relief to the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “The flood waters should begin to recede soon, and our families and businesses have a lot of recovery ahead of them. The federal disaster declaration is an appropriate and timely response to those needs.”

Also today, the Governor added another 16 counties to his original request for disaster assistance for farm families to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Gov. Beshear had asked for disaster relief for 21 counties related to the storms that have damaged nearly every facet of the state’s agriculture industry.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects the Ohio River to crest in Paducah at 55.8 feet today, lower than the record of 60.6 feet set in 1937. The Ohio River will likely crest at 55 feet at the Smithland levee sometime today. The Corps expects the river to hold steady at crest level for about two days before beginning to recede.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives continue damage assessments throughout the state. The federal teams work alongside representatives from Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM), small business administration and local emergency management. The joint assessment teams will assess all damages to infrastructure, businesses and homes in each county with a disaster declaration in order to calculate the magnitude of loss. The total assessments will help determine the level of federal disaster relief.

More than 600 Kentucky National Guard troops continue to assist in flood relief efforts in six western Kentucky counties. Missions include security patrols, evacuation support, sandbagging operations, communications and logistics and aviation support.

Approximately 3,800 Kentucky residents have evacuated their homes since flooding began. Four Red Cross shelters housed 38 people last night in three locations; a total of five Red Cross shelters are operating statewide.

Engineers and emergency response teams are monitoring the Hickman and Smithland levees around the clock for signs of failure or breach.

Heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday in the central portion of the state produced one to four inches of rain, adding runoff to regional lakes and tributaries. The additional runoff may cause minor to moderate flooding in the Green River, Licking River, Rolling Fork River and Salt River. No additional evacuations are expected as a result of this recent rainfall.

Historic lake levels have been reported across the Commonwealth, and some controlled releases are underway at Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. Water has crested at the spillway at Taylorsville Lake, and provided there are no further storms, the water should begin to recede.

According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC), approximately 250 roads are closed affecting more than 50 counties. Because of the rapidly changing nature of flooding, road closure information can quickly become outdated. Before traveling to an affected area, check with local authorities. Traffic information for interstates, parkways and major routes is available at or by calling 511. In addition, KYTC has a map on its website ( indicating road closures.

Gov. Beshear Requests Additional USDA Disaster Assistance

Gov. Steve Beshear today requested additional counties be included in a request for disaster assistance from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as a result of severe storms and flooding that occurred, starting the week of April 17.

“Additional flooding from continued rainfall is severely affecting more counties in our agriculture community,” said Gov. Beshear. “All facets of Kentucky’s agricultural industry have been hard hit, and assistance from the USDA is critical and necessary to offset resulting income losses.”

On April 29, Gov. Beshear requested disaster assistance for 21 counties in western Kentucky. Today, the Governor requested the following 16 counties be added to the request: Anderson, Jefferson, Spencer, Boyle, Logan, Todd Bullitt, Meade, Trigg, Calloway, Mercer, Trimble, Christian, Ohio, Woodford, Franklin

The widespread effect of the flooding is continuing to impact Kentuckians across the Commonwealth as rivers that have not yet crested continue to rise. The Governor’s written request is the necessary first step to initiate the process for a Secretarial Disaster Designation. This designation is necessary for several USDA disaster assistance programs to become available to farmers across the Commonwealth.

Additional counties may be added to the request at a later date if conditions warrant.

Information about USDA Disaster Assistance Programs and the Secretarial Disaster Designation process are available at by clicking on the Disaster Assistance Program link in the left-hand column.

On Blasting the Levee near Cairo

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin on Levee blast:
Illinois’ senior senator expects Congress will help those affected by the destruction of the Birds Point Levee. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin says lawmakers in Washington will help the farmers and homeowners whose property is damaged or destroyed. “It is a tradition in the Congress that we stand behind those farmers. So they are going to be compensated for the loss of those crops, as they should be. We are not walking away from that responsibility.” Durbin made his comments before the levee was breached, and floodwaters rushed into southeast Missouri late Monday night. The Army Corps of Engineers wrapped up demolition work Tuesday, and experts remain hopeful the action will continue to reduce pressure on levees in Cairo and further upstream.

Statement from Attorney General Jack Conway, Tuesday, May 3: “With so many families in harm’s way due to historic flooding, I support the Army Corps of Engineers decision last night to detonate the Birds Point levee along the Mississippi River in Missouri. Although there is no perfect solution in the face of a disaster such as this, I believe the decision to breach this levee, permitted by the U.S. Supreme Court, will save lives and prevent significant property damage in Kentucky. My thoughts and prayers are now with the many families in Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by rising flood waters.”

Statement from Governor Beshear, Monday, May 2: “I support this evening’s decision by the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the Birds Point levee in Missouri. While this was clearly a difficult decision for the federal government, the protection of lives must come before the protection of property. In addition, with bad weather continuing for the Commonwealth, I hope it will provide Kentucky communities some relief.”

McConnell and Paul support Gov. Beshear’s request for federal aid

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul Thursday sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their support for Governor Steve Beshear’s request for a federal disaster declaration for Kentucky. “Since April 22, record flooding, high winds, and tornadoes have swept through the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Forty-eight (48) counties and seventeen (17) independent municipalities have requested assistance, as the severe storms caused extensive damage exceeding the ability of the state government and localities to effectively respond and triggering significant economic hardship,” wrote Senators McConnell and Paul. “Timely and serious consideration of the Governor’s disaster declaration request on your part would aid in providing essential services to Kentucky communities so severely affected by this most recent disaster, the ninth major disaster to impact the Commonwealth in three years.”

US Senator Rand Paul issued this statement Wednesday afternoon.

Conway intervenes in flooding lawsuit – April 29 Update

A federal judge in Missouri Friday granted a request from Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway to intervene in a federal lawsuit to help protect parts of Western Kentucky from potentially catastrophic flooding.

In Friday’s ruling, United States District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. also denied a request by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster for a temporary restraining order to stop the Army Corps of Engineers from detonating a levee on the Mississippi River if flood waters reach 60 feet on the river gauge at Cairo, Ill. “I appreciate Judge Limbaugh’s careful consideration of this matter,” General Conway said. “I intervened in this case to protect residents in Fulton County and other areas of Western Kentucky whose lives could be jeopardized by potentially catastrophic flooding.”

The case stems from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flood plan that has been in place since 1928 to help protect parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois from flooding. The plan calls for the Corps to detonate a levee on the Mississippi if flood waters reach 60 feet on the river gauge at Cairo, Ill. The Birds Point – New Madrid Floodway is located along the Mississippi River near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. The Corps purchased easements to farmland in Missouri, and the water would flood that farmland instead of destroying homes and businesses downstream in Cairo, Ill. and Hickman, Ky.

On Tuesday, April 26, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed a motion in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri to stop the Army Corps from detonating the levee because he said it would flood 100 homes.

The Corps estimates that if the levees are not detonated when the river reaches 60 feet it could cause more than $32 million of damage in Fulton County alone. Additionally, officials estimate that 3.9 feet of water will flow over the top of the floodwall in Hickman – endangering lives and property.

Fulton County Attorney Rick Major has been assisting the Office of the Attorney General with the case.

Congressman Whitfield Tours Damaged Counties

U.S. Congressman Ed Whitfield toured far western Kentucky Wednesday to survey flooding and storm damage. The Congressman hopes to visit twelve counties. Whitfield visited with Murray Mayor Bill Wells this morning, and discussed storm damage, as well as the possibility of federal disaster relief. Governor Steve Beshear is preparing to ask for a presidential disaster declaration. The Congressman says in times like these, it’s important to find out what county and city officials need. “Many of them have difficulties being reimbursed from the state and from FEMA. For there’s some communities who haven’t received all of their money from the Ice Storm, for example.” Whitfield met with emergency managers and judge executives on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Major and possibly historic flooding is expected in western Kentucky’s river communities.


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