'This will take years': Kentucky facing staggering flood recovery

'This will take years': Kentucky facing staggering flood recovery
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Economy

The state of Kentucky will likely be faced with staggering financial costs to rebuild its infrastructure following the massive flooding that occurred on the eastern side of the state over the last couple of weeks.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is currently doing its assessment of the damage but Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has made it clear that the state will need "significant dollars," as he described the disaster as "the most devastating flooding event our state has ever seen."

He elaborated on the state's infrastructure when he spoke on Wednesday, August 3.

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"When we look at infrastructure, when we look at the massive damage here – roads, bridges just eaten away, the water system just heavily damaged, some wiped out. It's going to take significant time and significant dollars to restore what was destroyed. [There was] real significant damage to water and wastewater systems," Beshear said.

Speaking to The Hill, Jonathan Jett —superintendent of Perry County Public Schools in Kentucky— said the repairs to his school district will likely require millions of dollars.

"This will take years," Jett said. "I have two schools with significant, significant damage. I'm waiting to hear from structural engineers and architects who are coming next Wednesday to see if we can even go back in the building. I'm not having people in there before I know it's structurally sound."

In a recent statement to The Hill, FEMA press secretary Jeremy Edwards also indicated that the federal agency doesn't estimate costs when it comes to a continuous recovery effort. "Every disaster is unique, and we will continue to work with our state and local partners to ensure they have the resources necessary during this difficult time," Edwards said.

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On Wednesday, Beshear also expressed concern about the extensive damage to the state's infrastructure for water and sanitation. The governor indicated that there were "still just over 18,000 service connections without water, 45,600-ish service connections under boiled water advisory, [and] 21 water systems under limited operation due to power outages and storm damage."

Another issue for local residents is the lack of flood insurance.

"One of the most devastating parts of this flood is that most people's homes are not going to be covered by insurance. A lot of people don't have insurance. Most people don't have flood insurance, which is really expensive, and it's going to be a real challenge on the rebuilding side," the governor said.

Melissa Roberts, the American Flood Coalition executive director, offered more insight into the problem.

"The way they set those areas hasn't been updated and hasn't kept up with changing conditions," said Roberts. "It's a huge problem in the center of the country too where the mapping, I think, doesn't capture the true risk of flooding."

The latest concerns raised come just days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also released a statement weighing in on the economic impacts of the natural disaster.

"Even the families who were lucky enough to get out unscathed have lost homes, businesses, and heirlooms. In many communities, the waterlogged destruction is absolute," the Republican senator said earlier this week.

"Late last week, I joined with every member of Kentucky's congressional delegation to support the Governor's request to the President for a Major Disaster declaration to give our first responders federal help," he added.

"We're getting more devastating flood disasters, we're getting them in more places, we're getting them more frequently and the costs are rising," she said.

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