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Infrastructure Damage Hampers Flood Recovery in Kentucky

Wed August 17, 2022 - Midwest Edition #17
Bruce Schreiner and John Raby – ASSOCIATED PRESS

The District 11 Clay County Oneida crew was busy cleaning up road debris.
(KYTC staff photo)
The District 11 Clay County Oneida crew was busy cleaning up road debris. (KYTC staff photo)
The District 11 Clay County Oneida crew was busy cleaning up road debris.
(KYTC staff photo) The KYTC crew works to clear ditches in Shelby Gap. (KYTC staff photo) In District 11, highway crews cleared about 100 rock and mudslides and have so far replaced or repaired about a dozen highway culverts.
(KYTC staff photo) The KY 3409 bridge is being made passable. 
(KYTC staff photo) KY District 11 crews conducted culvert replacement operations on KY 1482 at mile point 1.0. due to the recent flooding. (KYTC staff photo) Debris blocks a bridge in Letcher County.                                                  
(KYTC staff photo) Crews clear and repair a culvert.                                                               
(KYTC staff photo) Secretary Jim Gray talks with District 2 crew and Knott County Judge Executive Jeff Dobson. 
(KYTC staff photo)

HINDMAN, Ky. (AP) Damage to critical infrastructure and the arrival of more heavy rains hampered efforts to help Kentucky residents hit by massive flooding last month Gov. Andy Beshear said.

As residents in Appalachia tried to slowly piece their lives back together, flash flood warnings were issued for at least eight eastern Kentucky counties. The National Weather Service said radar indicated up to 4 in. of rain fell July 31 in some areas, with more rain possible.

"We have dozens of bridges that are out — making it hard to get to people, making it hard to supply people with water," Beshear told the Associated Press.

Parts of eastern Kentucky received between 8 and 10.5 in. over 48 hours during the severe weather system that began on July 26.

President Joe Biden declared a federal disaster to direct relief money to more than a dozen Kentucky counties.

Flooding extended to West Virginia, where Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six southern counties, and to Virginia, where Gov. Glenn Youngkin also made an emergency declaration that enabled officials to mobilize resources across the flooded southwest portion of the state.

On an overcast morning in downtown Hindman, about 200 mi. southeast of Louisville, a crew cleared debris piled along storefronts. Nearby, a vehicle was perched upside down in Troublesome Creek, now back within its debris-littered banks.

Workers toiled nonstop through mud-caked sidewalks and roads.

"We're going to be here unless there's a deluge," said Tom Jackson, who is among the workers.

Jackson was with a crew from Corbin, Ky., where he's the city's recycling director, about a two-hour drive from Hindman.

His crew worked all day July 30, and the mud and debris were so thick that they only managed to clear one-eighth of a mile of roadway. The water rushing off the hillsides had so much force that it bent road signs.

"I've never seen water like this," Jackson said.

KYTC Works to Repair Roads, Bridges

From response to recovery, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is committed to help rebuild eastern Kentucky communities ravaged by the July 2022 flooding event.

The KYTC is working to rapidly replace the first batch of closed bridges that were destroyed or heavily damaged at 11 sites in Knott, Letcher, Perry and Pike counties. These are mostly in locations where the loss of the bridge left people with no motor-vehicle access to their homes.

The cabinet is using existing and emergency contracts so the work can be completed as quickly as possible. The first step will be to construct temporary crossings with large drainpipes and hard-packed roadbeds while survey and design teams begin work on steel and concrete structures.

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