The wait is over, and the news is good.
Late Monday evening, Pulaski County was added to the ever-growing list of Kentucky counties designated federal disaster areas, which means residents affected by the floods from earlier this month will be able to seek federal assistance for cleanup and repair efforts.
“We’re relieved to have an answer,” said Pulaski County Executive Secretary Tiffany Finley, who worked alongside federal and local officials in seeking assistance.
Finley, along with Pulaski County Public Safety Director Tiger Robinson, toured several sites, both public and private, in the area on Thursday, May 13 with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assessment members.
During Tuesday’s Pulaski County Fiscal Court meeting, Robinson announced the declaration, stating that hundreds of homes were affected by the floods that swept through the area on the weekend of May 1 and 2.
Finley said Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock’s office had fielded approximately 200 phone calls between the May 3 emergency declaration by local governments and Monday.
“We’re excited that the wait is over and people can register with FEMA and hopefully get the help they need,” Finley said.
The storm system that dumped between five and seven inches of rain on the area caused disastrous flooding in other areas of the state, and several counties had already been declared disaster areas before Pulaski was added to the list, including Adair, Bath, Boyd, Carter, Casey, Franklin, Greenup, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Madison, Marion, Mercer, Metcalfe, Rockcastle, Rowan, and Woodford counties.
Several deaths had been reported in the state in connection with the floods, but no injuries were reported in Pulaski County during the initial rains, even though several high-water rescues took place.
Rescuers were dispatched to Shopville on Monday, May 3, to aid three men who attempted to kayak in the flooded waters of a creek. They were able to get to safety, but 18-year-old Jonathan Tyler Pickerell was killed when his kayak overturned while he was crossing the Fishing Creek area of Lake Cumberland on Wednesday, May 5.
Finley and Robinson stated on May 13 that they were hopeful news would come from FEMA within a few days about the county’s status. That took more like closer to two weeks, but Debbie Simon, field public information officer with FEMA external affairs, said there were several reasons for that.
“It’s not that we’re holding onto it or ignoring anyone,” said Simon on Monday afternoon, before Pulaski County received the designation.
Simon explained that Pulaski County’s assessment was grouped with assessments from other counties before being sent to state and then federal officials for review.
“They (FEMA assessment team members) are running as fast as they can to put this together,” Simon said.
Simon said assessments are still continuing in the state, specifically in areas of southwestern Kentucky.
Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock and Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler both issued disaster declarations on May 3 in order to seek federal assistance in cleanup efforts.
Officials were hopeful that the public side of the disaster declaration had been met by the county — and according to FEMA, those sentiments were true.
The county’s threshold to qualify for assistance was $181,000 — in other words, cleanup and repair work would have to cost at least that much for federal funds to be freed up. The cost of just three county projects on Wesley Warren Road, Charter Oak Road and the Pointer Creek area amounted to $260,000.
County road crews are still working to clear debris from affected bridges and roadways. Everything has been made passable, but work is still in store in many areas, including the Blaze Valley bridge that crosses Pitman Creek near Ky. 192.
Broken asphalt peeled up from the bridges by the force of the floodwater is still lying on the bank and, in some cases, the water of local waterways, including Blaze Valley.
Acting County Road Supervisor Dennis Turner said crews are planning on returning to affected bridges and roadways to permanently repair damage and to clean up any debris still in the area, including asphalt.
According to a press release from FEMA, both individual citizens affected by the floods and local governments will be able to seek assistance.
Individuals seeking federal assistance may call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register. The number is toll-free.
Finley and Robinson emphasized that the next steps for affected residents and businesses is to call the FEMA number. “At this point, it’s up to FEMA whether they get assistance or not,” Robinson said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with the county.”
The emergency designation also includes the Somerset city limits — an area which also saw a significant amount of flooding.
Pulaski County on Monday was designated for individual and public assistance alongside 24 other counties: Allen, Anderson, Boyle, Barren, Elliot, Fleming, Garrard, Green, Hart, Henry, Jackson, Jessamine, Leslie, Montgomery, Magoffin, Menifee, Monroe, Nicholas, Nelson, Owen, Powell, Simpson, Warren and Washington counties.