JACKSON, KY -- As flood relief efforts ramp up across Southern and Eastern Kentucky to help families displaced by recent flooding, Congressman Hal Rogers personally visited several of the hardest-hit communities to offer hope, donations and a commitment to action. Congressman Rogers arrived in Jackson, Booneville and Beattyville on Friday alongside Operation UNITE and his good friends, Bill Deaton and Kelly Craft to deliver good news.
Over the last three days, Operation UNITE and members of Congressman Rogers staff have delivered pallets of water, cleaning supplies, toiletries, and other items to Breathitt, Clay, Lee and Owsley counties. Operation UNITE, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, also established a Flood Relief Fund accessible online at OperationUNITE.org.
To kick off the fund with it's first major donation, Bill Deaton, a Booneville-native and Founder of Senture, provided a gift of $50,000 to be used for immediate and long-term flood-related needs in the region.
Kelly Craft, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, arrived with an abundance of supplies and new clothing for families who lost nearly everything.
"Kentucky is full of compassion and I'm so thankful to have such giving friends with me today who are donating much-needed supplies and money as part of our joint flood relief efforts. We all know that beaucratic government assistance can never come quickly enough, so these private donations are critically important for individuals who barely escaped their flooded homes with the clothes they were wearing," said Congressman Rogers. "As soon as Gov. Beshear requests a federal disaster declaration from the President, I will ask the entire Kentucky Congressional delegation to join me in supporting his request and urging expedited approval. We need to mobilize FEMA and other federal resources as soon as possible, but we cannot get that access until the declaration is approved."
"My heart breaks for my hometown of Booneville and this entire region," said Deaton. "The road ahead is long, challenging, and costly, but I hope this gift will help jump start relief efforts and infuse these communities with a little hope during these early, difficult days. I know we can't fix every problem, but if we all pitch in and do our part, we can sure make a difference."
"Kentuckians have proven to be strong, our communities are home to extraordinary solidarity and resilience. Kentuckians persevere, we endure, our spirit is strong,” said Craft. “What makes us strong is our core values that guide our lives. I am confident we will once again rise to this challenge. We should all be reminded of our common humanity, and that our lives are inter-connected and our survival depends on supporting one another."
Emergency managment officials and local leaders provided Congressman Rogers with a status briefing of early damage assessments and recovery efforts in Jackson, Beattyville and Booneville.
In Breathitt County local leaders shared concerns about repairing a major water line collapse in the Jackson Water System that has disrupted water service across the county, as well as the need for long-term assistance with housing and infrastructure repairs.
"We suffered a historic flood in Breathitt County and we have a long road ahead, but it gives me great confidence to know how dedicated Congressman Rogers is to standing with us on the front-lines to help our community," Jeff Noble, Breathitt County Judge Executive. "I'm grateful for the outpouring of support from across the state to help in our flood relief efforts."
The water system in Owsley County was also disrupted by the flood, leaving the entire county with a boil water advisory. The flood destroyed homes, farm land, infrastructure and a local health clinic.
"As we work to remove debris and make critical repairs to our infrastructure, it's a relief to see major donations pouring in to help our families and businesses with cleanup efforts as well," Cale Turner, Owsley County Judge Executive. "We have a long road ahead, and we appreciate Congressman Rogers' commitment to help us work with federal agencies as soon as they are mobilized."
Downtown Beattyville was heavily damaged when the North Fork of the Kentucky River submerged the entire city with more than six feet of water, displacing at least 25 families, destroying businesses and government facilities.
"We deeply appreciate the support from Congressman Rogers from day one of this disaster. He and his staff jumped into action as soon as it was safe to begin bringing in supplies, and these additional donations will go a long way in helping our families in need as we await help from FEMA and other agencies," Chuck Caudill, Lee County Judge Executive. "It will take all of our communities working together, with state, federal and private resources to fully recover from this historic flooding."
Breathitt County leaders show Congressman Rogers flood damage to the local vocational school
Local Owsley County leaders brief Congressman Rogers on damage assessments and needs
Local leaders in Lee County provide a briefing in the county courthouse that was heavily damaged in the flood