Environment

Eastern Kentucky residents are bracing for another round of storms beginning Tuesday afternoon and into Wednesday night. Parts of both eastern and central Kentucky are under a flood watch until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Additionally, Gov. Andy Beshear said he expects the death toll from recent flooding to increase to 38, pending confirmation of another fatality in Knott County. The Kentucky State Police are continuing their efforts to identify missing people.

As rescue efforts continue, crews are working to restore and repair utilities and important infrastructure.

The governor reported 372 power outages, which he said is down from 25,000 at its height. He said some of the outages come from crews having to shut off service to complete repairs.

“We’re now down to 6,620 service connections without water, 30,857 service connections under a boil-water advisory,” Beshear said.

Eight water systems are still under limited operations and five wastewater systems are non-operational. 

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews are working to restore 11 bridges heavily damaged or destroyed in Perry, Knott, Pike and Letcher counties. 

“They’re mostly at sites where the loss of the bridge left people with no motor vehicle access to their homes,” Beshear said.

The state is using existing and emergency contracts to proceed with construction as quickly as possible, according to Beshear.

“First step will be to construct temporary crossings with large drain pipes and hard-packed road beds while survey and design teams begin work on steel and concrete structures,” Beshear said. 

He expects restoring private bridges and housing to be among the most difficult challenges ahead for the state.

There currently are 315 people in temporary housing across the affected areas, and some state park facilities still have availability for people seeking shelter. 

Beshear said cellular service in affected areas has been almost totally restored.

“What we’ve learned now over two major disasters is this is one of the first things you’ve got to get up,” Beshear said. “Once you do, you get a better idea of how many people you’re missing and how many you’ve lost.”

One major roadblock to recovery efforts has been debris. Beshear said debris assessments will continue through Wednesday. 

“A process is in the works to identify and remove vehicles from the right-of-way,” he said.

The governor said that once private contractors are on the ground people will notice “a huge difference very quickly” in debris clean-up. 

Beshear’s state of emergency declaration and associated executive orders in connection with the flood can last for 30 days, at which point it will need to be extended.

One way that extension can occur is through approval by the General Assembly.

Beshear said he expects a special session to take place within the next month to address the floods.

Breya Jones is the Breaking News Reporter for WFPL.