FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gave an update on Thursday on the recovery efforts for the historic flooding in eastern Kentucky, including announcing the creation of the Council for Community Recovery and Resiliency. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Council for Community Recovery and Resiliency will focus on planning for disasters across the commonwealth and ensure wide-ranging government agencies respond as a coordinated team

  • The goal is to accelerate recovery efforts that can stretch for years

  • Kentucky has been devastated by tornadoes in the western part of the state and historic flooding in the eastern part, all in the past year

  • While eastern Kentucky remains heavily damaged, some sense of normalcy is returning to the region with some students going back to school

Beshear established the council through an executive order with the purpose of promoting long-term recovery and resiliency efforts in the face of disasters. The group will consist of members from a wide range of local, state and federal agencies. With support from Kentucky Emergency Management and Military Affairs, the group will provide leadership and guidance for community recovery and resiliency planning across the commonwealth.

“We have to accept the fact that we are going to face more frequent disasters with more intensity. Once we accept that, we know we have to be ready. We have to be resilient and we have to be strong,” said Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker. “This council will allow us to all come together with our resources, our funds and our expertise and sit down in the same room to make sure we are not duplicating efforts but amplifying them.”

“It’s clear that we are experiencing an increase in natural disasters with major impacts on our families and our communities,” Beshear said at his weekly news conference. “To be better prepared and more resilient, so we can respond and recover faster, I’m combining efforts of state, local and federal actors to be in a permanent group, working together not just to recover from these two major natural disasters we have been through, but to prepare for the future.”

Tornadoes killed scores of people and leveled portions of towns in western Kentucky in December. In late July, historic floodwaters inundated parts of eastern Kentucky, leaving dozens more dead. A full recovery is expected to take years in the hardest-hit areas.

The council’s objective is to ensure wide-ranging government agencies respond as a “coordinated team” in helping communities recover from natural disasters, said Kentucky Emergency Management Director Jeremy Slinker. The goal is to accelerate recovery efforts that can stretch for years, he said.

“There will be no silos,” Slinker said at the news conference. “There will be nobody working alone. We’ll all be working toward the same efforts and coordinating that together.”

Communities that are better prepared and more resilient recover “faster and stronger” from disasters, Beshear’s executive order said.

Among its roles, the council will lead efforts to improve building codes and land development codes, the order said. The council will be attached to the state Division of Emergency Management.

In an update on where flood relief efforts stand as of now, the governor shared that Kentucky State Police are still searching for two missing Breathitt County citizens: Vanessa Baker, a 60-year-old woman, and Nancy Cundiff, a 29-year-old woman — both are from the Lost Creek Community.

More than 331 people are still sheltering at state parks and 17 are sheltering in six hotels in eastern Kentucky. There are 32 service connections still without water, down from 34,121 on July 28, and 330 customers remain on a boil water advisory, down from 46,000. Four wastewater systems are still not operational.

Recovery efforts are focusing on debris removal, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet is beginning to remove abandoned cars and trucks to help clear right-of-ways and waterways.

The governor also shared that more than $71 million in grants has been approved from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 7,610 households. He also noted that flood survivors that qualify for FEMA are eligible for an additional $500 from the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund. To date, the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund has raised over $9.7 million from over 37,000 donors.

Flood recovery efforts are ongoing but some small sense of normalcy is returning to the region. This week, three schools in the area started their school year after delays because of the flood damage.