Whitesburg, Kentucky — As Florida begins its long recovery from Hurricane Ian, Kentucky residents understand what the state is going through. More than two months ago, heavy rains resulted inin 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 lives upended are everywhere. Third-generation coal miner Roger Hatton is still sifting through debris and memories after the flooding destroyed his home.
“We have got a porch to sit on. Some people don’t got a porch to sit on,” Hatton said. “Some people are living in tents.”
One of the most enduring images of the Kentucky floods is of 17-year-old Chloe Adams clinging to her dog, Sandy, on a neighbor’s rooftop for five hours.
“I didn’t know how to deal with that situation. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I really did think I was not going to make it out alive,” said Adams, whose cousin later rescued them on a kayak.
She still has not returned to her hometown of Whitesburg.
“I don’t think I would ever be able to comfortably sleep there again,” she said.
A nonprofit kitchen is providing the displaced 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 been rolling out some temporary homes.
“I believe that people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But their bootstraps have washed down the creek,” said state Rep. Angie Hatton, who lives in Whitesburg.
She said the problem for many now is navigating the process of securing aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“It takes some sort of Olympic athlete to jump through the hoops,” she said. “So I keep calling on our representatives in Congress and the U.S. Senate to please do something about FEMA.”
Overall, FEMA has doled out more than $70 million to help with the recovery — but victims like Vanessa Rouse, a single mother of two, are stuck in limbo.
Rouse says her flood insurance and homeowners insurance are at odds over who should cover the damage. For now, she’s paying a mortgage on a house she can’t 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 it’s more and more apparent of the loss.”