By Emma Collins, Building Kentucky
In the hours following widespread flooding in eastern Kentucky that left dozens dead and thousands of families with nothing, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet sprang into action.
Highway crews from across the state mobilized to the area, immediately getting to work clearing roadways and bridges to allow first responders access to the area, playing a critical role in saving lives.
“We’re not asking whether it’s a state road or a county road,” Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) Secretary Jim Gray said. “Our crews are helping everywhere, everyone. This is all hands on deck in the most meaningful sense of that word.”
Help From Across the State
Mudslides throughout the area rendered many roads impassable and filled ditches with debris, impacting drainage and raising the risk of more flooding. KYTC crews, many whom had volunteered to help, put in long hours helping to clear debris and inspect bridges to ensure they were safe for travel.
“The bridges and the roads here, the infrastructure, has been substantially impaired, substantially damaged and compromised,” Gray said. “And that’s going to take time. It’s not like you can turn a light switch on and place concrete and asphalt.”
In some instances, crews constructed temporary crossings to restore vehicle access to homes until permanent bridges could be built. Design work on those new bridges began within days, with engineers working with concrete and steel beam manufacturers to secure the necessary materials.
But assistance wasn’t just limited to transportation infrastructure. Crews also coordinated the transport of water for families who were left without access and helped set up hundreds of travel trailers for temporary housing for those unable to return home.
An Ongoing Effort
Weeks after the flooding, KYTC’s response continues, with crews working hard to remove debris, clear waterways and inspect bridges. Crews have inventoried more than 1,000 bridges, identifying 166 that were damaged by flooding and beginning the necessary repair work.
Popup licensing centers have also been set up to replace drivers licenses, permits and state IDs that were lost to flood damage, and Governor Andy Beshear has temporarily waived replacement fees.
“We’re in this for the long-haul,” Gray said. “That’s what Governor Beshear has said repeatedly, ‘We are in this for the long haul.’”
Fundraising Aids Recovery
KYTC’s efforts were aided by fundraising across the state. From the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund set up by the Beshear administration to donations from Anthem Kentucky Medicaid, Kentucky REALTORS®, Louisville Water Company and C2 Strategic Communications, tens of thousands of dollars were collected.
All funding will be used to help those impacted by the historic flooding.