Environment

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is extending a deadline for Kentucky residents to apply for flood recovery assistance.

Affected counties have filed more than 1,200 reports of damage amounting to more than $72 million in repairs, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

The U.S. Small Businesses Administration has extended the deadline to July 8 for businesses and residents in 31 counties in Eastern Kentucky to apply for FEMA assistance.

“I encourage all eligible Kentuckians to apply as soon as possible and to call or meet with FEMA staff in person if you need help,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. 

More than 3,300 people have already filed applications and FEMA has already dispersed more than $5 million, according to the release. 

President Joe Biden’s federal disaster declaration in April has resulted in the largest award for displaced and damaged homes since flooding in 2010.

From late February to mid-March, Eastern Kentucky counties were inundated with heavy rains — as much as seven inches in 24 hours in some cases. 

“And even that has to be put in some context because the ground conditions were rather wet at the time. We had rain and snow previously,” said State Climatologist Stuart Foster. “So we’re getting used to a very much wetter climate than what we had in the past.”

Eastern Kentucky remains particularly susceptible to flooding because of its steep slopes and narrow valleys, where many communities are located. 

Foster says there’s no simple solution for Eastern Kentucky, but he says local funding to adapt to the changing climate is a good start. 

“Certainly the people of the region know their area very well and would be the ones to kind of lead the way in terms of mitigation and redevelopment there,” Foster said. 

Kentucky receives about ten more inches of rain every year than it did a century ago. And five of the wettest years on record have occurred in the last decade. 

Foster says climate forecasts project these events will only become more common in the coming decades. 

Assistance Details From Office of the Governor:

Counties included in the declaration: Anderson, Boyd, Breathitt, Clark, Clay, Estill, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Greenup, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Knott, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lincoln, Madison, Magoffin, Martin, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Warren and Woodford.

Website to apply for assistance: www.disasterassistance.gov.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.