Flood-devastated eastern Kentucky has started assessing damage to buildings and infrastructure following heavy rains last week.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced July 30 that it has authorized funds for emergency home repairs and temporary lodgings. The cost of repairs to damaged roads and bridges could be offset somewhat by Federal Highway Administration emergency relief funds, but the Commonwealth of Kentucky has not yet applied for such funds as of Aug. 1, according to a spokesperson for FHWA. 

Gov. Andy Beshear (D), who has been touring flood-damaged areas over the last few days, described the conditions in 13 counties that are part of the major disaster declaration made by President Joe Biden on July 29 as “absolutely devastating.” 

“It’s going to take years to rebuild,” said Beshear who provided an update Aug. 2 on the extent of damage to local infrastructure including roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater treatment facilities. 

“Kentucky Transportation Cabinet crews are working to clear debris and get more roads reopened,” he said. “A lot of the activity is focused on clearing drain pipes. That’s key to preventing water from backing up and causing local flooding.”

He said that 75% of the bridges in the region have been inspected and 20 remain closed. 

As for water systems, about 18,000 service connections were without water as of Aug. 2 and about 45,600 service connections were under boil-water orders. 

One wastewater treatment plant, the Hazard Wastewater Treatment Plant in Hazard, Ky., “is not operational,” Beshear said. 

Power outages in the affected region have decreased from a high of about 24,000 to 25,000 customers earlier to 9,686 statewide and about 7,500 in the flood-affected region. 

“Folks have worked really hard,” Beshear said. “Kentucky Power is working really hard.” 

The number of fatalities due to the flooding was at 37 as of Aug. 1, but that total is expected to rise, he said. 

Richard Vincent, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of Kentucky, told ENR via email, “Words cannot convey [the] level of carnage, destruction and loss these communities have, and continue to experience.”

Russell Romine, executive director of the Kentucky Engineering Center in Frankfort, said by email that his organization’s membership, the American Council of Engineering Cos. of Kentucky and the Kentucky Society of Engineers, have been asked to provide their services pro bono to assist in the process of assessing infrastructure.  

Romine said, "Some of my members are helping with the assessments." He added, "They are not coordinating through me; rather they are working with the individual emergency  operations centers in the impacted counties."

Less Severe Flooding in Missouri

Some parts of Missouri also were hit hard by heavy rain and flooding in late July, but the damage does not appear to be as significant as in eastern Kentucky. 

Nancy Horn, director of communications for the Missouri Dept. of Transportation, said the flooding had resulted in minor damages to roads and other public infrastructure. She estimated the damage to federal- and non-federal aid roads in 10 counties at less than $100,000. 

Assessment of damages is continuing throughout the MoDOT system, including road surface damage, shoulder damage and debris removal, she said. 

Sean Stone, senior public affairs specialist for the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, said that there were sewer backups in structures and water running over roads during heavy rains of 10 in. in six hours on July 26 and 4 in. in two hours of July 28. 

He said the damage does not appear to be significant, although an assessment has not yet been done. 

"We are not in the inspection stage yet," he said on Aug. 2. "We haven't gotten to the state of looking at it with a microscope—so to speak," he said.