Whitesburg, Kentucky — As Florida begins its long recovery from Hurricane Ian, Kentuckians understand what the state is going through. More than two months ago, heavy rainfall occurredin decades — and many communities are still waiting for help, prompting calls for more action at the federal level.
The storm caused 40 deaths and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage – and the signs of the lives upended are everywhere. Third-generation miner Roger Hutton continues to search for debris and memories after the flood destroyed his home.
“We have a porch to sit on. Some people don’t have a porch to sit on,” Hatton said. “Some people live in tents.”
One of the most enduring images of the Kentucky floods is 17-year-old Chloe Adams clinging to her dog, Sandy, on a neighbor’s roof for five hours.
“I didn’t know how to deal with this situation. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I really didn’t think I was going to make it out alive,” said Adams, whose cousin later rescued them in a kayak. .
She still hasn’t returned to her hometown of Whitesburg.
“I don’t think I could ever sleep comfortably there again,” he said.
A non-profit kitchen provides evacuees an average of 1,200 meals a day. The start of the school year was delayed after five of the school district’s eight campuses were damaged. The state has also opened some temporary housing.
“I think people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But their bootstraps have washed down the creek,” said state Rep. Angie Hutton, who lives in Whitesburg.
He said the problem for many now is navigating the process of securing help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“It takes some kind of Olympian to jump through hoops,” he said. “So I continue to call on our representatives in the U.S. Congress and Senate to do something about FEMA.”
In total, FEMA has provided more than $70 million to help with the recovery — but victims like Vanessa Rouse, a single mother of two, are stuck in the dark.
Rouse says flood insurance and homeowners insurance are at odds over who should cover the damage. Currently, he is paying a mortgage on a house he cannot live in.
“I used to come here almost every day, but I don’t come that often anymore,” she said of her home. “Because it’s so sad. Because every day the loss is more apparent.”