Nancy Herald shows a photo of her home during the March 2021 flood in Jackson, photographed on Dec. 19. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Arden Barnes)
JACKSON —About five months after deadly flooding and heavy rains displaced thousands of Eastern Kentuckians and killed at least 44, many still need help to replace basic household supplies.
The plea from many in Breathitt County going into hard winter is, they told the Kentucky Lantern: Don’t forget about us. And: there are still many needs, including permanent housing.
88.9 WEKU, the public radio station in Richmond, will air a six-week news series
examining the causes and aftermath of 2022’s disastrous Eastern Kentucky flood beginning on
Jan. 12. A news release from the station says that WEKU’s Tom Martin and a team of reporters will take listeners on a journey as
Eastern Kentucky navigates a future made less certain by climate change.
The program, called “Rise,” will be available on the radio and Internet.
“The series explores what contributed to the disaster, how communities are responding, and
what’s needed to address the challenges ahead. You’ll hear from those most affected and those
working on solutions,” said Martin, senior editor and host of “Rise”.
The show will include dozens of interviews with people affected by the flood, reporters who
have covered it and experienced it personally, state officials, and others. It will air at 11 a.m.
and 8 p.m. Eastern Time Thursdays and repeat the following Sunday at 6 p.m. The show can be
heard or livestreamed at www.weku-rise.org. The website will also include an archive of
episodes and interviews.
Over four days from July 26 to July 30, 2022, 6 to 16 inches of rain fell, according to the National Weather Service. The “incredible rainfall also led to significant rises and flooding on many rivers,” NWS reported.
The result was homes underwater, cars washed away, buildings flipped and people killed.
That weather event came a little more than a year after floods in 2021 devastated the same region, the worst flooding there in some 50 years.
In the weeks after the disaster, donations poured into the region—clothes, food, volunteers to muck out damaged homes. Now, as survivors focus on rebuilding, they still need help.
“The first thing I say when anybody asks (what people need) is: gift cards and money,” said Justina Salyers, who is from River Caney. “And the reason I say that is because they’re spending all their money on fixing their homes. So, they’re buying drywall, they’re buying furniture, they’re buying flooring. So the biggest thing that I see that I can give them, and they’re not overloaded with, is money, and they can go out and buy groceries or whatever they need.”
Others said there’s a need for building and construction supplies, food and financial planners to come in and help people sort through their money situations.
“They’ve had a lot of wonderful toy drives and coat drives, but I feel like people really need help with housing,” said Jackson Mayor Laura Thomas. “Whether that’s helping with a rebuild, or helping them get rental assistance or helping them get…into more permanent housing.”
“We've had kids that have participated in Shop with a Cop that wanted to buy food.”
– Jackson Mayor Laura Thomas
In the nearby Knott-Perry county line in Talcum, Gov. Andy Beshear announced in late December, 75 acres–with the possibility of 300–has been conveyed for a new community on higher ground that could mean “dozens upon dozens” of houses outside the floodplains.
Even when people get into permanent housing, Thomas said, “then they’re going to need household supplies…and people need food. We’ve had…kids that have participated in Shop with a Cop that wanted to buy food.”
Jackson woman Carolyn Combs said the bottom line is: people need everything because they’ve lost everything.
“Everything that I’ve had the last 15 years of my life is gone,” she said. “If there’s nothing that (people) can do when it comes to…physically donating something, we could always use prayers. If it hadn’t been for prayers, and just God working through people…we would have never made it this far.”
Some said they felt abandoned as some organizations moved on from Eastern Kentucky to the next big disaster.
“There’s other disasters,” Marine and Jackson resident Dexter Dunn told the Lantern. “You got Florida down there. You got the wildfires out west. That’s all it takes. You look at Western Kentucky…they had the tornadoes.”
Dunn swung his son in his arms as he spoke while he cooed and smiled. Baby River Slade got his name because his momma waded through flood water when she was eight months pregnant with him.
“We knew given the next national disaster or whatever that it would just fall to the wayside,” Dunn said of the area. “You know, nobody would be here to help…It just doesn’t end after the trucks leave.”
Many Eastern Kentucky flood survivors say the recovery would go much slower without local nonprofits that have stepped up and provided furniture, food and other items to folks in need.
You can help Eastern Kentucky flood survivors by donating online to such organizations as:
- Aspire Appalachia
- Samaritan’s Purse
- Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky
- United Methodist Mountain Mission
- Housing Development Alliance Inc.
- Mission of Hope
- Appalachians for Appalachia
- Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation Flood Relief Fund
- Eastern Kentucky Mutual Aid
- Save the Children
- Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund
- American Red Cross
Did we miss an organization or fund? Please let the author know at [email protected].
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