Obama declares major disaster in Ky. because of flooding

President Barack Obama has declared a major disaster in Kentucky because of widespread damage from flooding the weekend of May 1-2.

The president's declaration on Tuesday will make federal aid available to the state and people, businesses and local governments whose property was damaged.

The declaration — which was based on assessments last weekend, according to state officials — covered fewer counties than the number hit by this month's storms. Local, state and federal officials are continuing to make assessments and the list of counties where people, businesses and government agencies will get federal aid is expected to increase, according to Gov. Steve Beshear's office.

Beshear said the state would continue working to get all affected counties federal help.

Local officials in places not included in the initial list hope they get added soon.

"In addition to the physical devastation, we're going to have fiscal devastation" without federal aid for Liberty and Casey County, said Liberty Mayor Steve Sweeney.

Sweeney said the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimated the flood caused $3.7 million in damage to city and county infrastructure and $8.4 million to businesses.

Statewide, the flood caused damage estimated at more than $30 million to public and private property, according to the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management.

Fast-rising floodwaters caused far-flung problems. So far, 81 counties and 38 cities have declared states of emergency, according to state officials.

Of the 788 homes where officials did damage surveys last weekend, 73 were destroyed and 374 had major damage, according to a news release from the Division of Emergency Management.

Visits to areas hit by flooding are scheduled to continue through the week.

The declaration announced Tuesday makes aid available to individuals and households in eight counties: Casey, Lincoln, Rockcastle, Woodford, Rowan, Lewis, Logan and Metcalfe.

It will open up various types of financial aid, such as grants for temporary housing or home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs for people and business owners, according to FEMA.

Home and business owners should document their damages with photos, keep receipts for any repairs or costs, and report the damage to their county emergency management director, state officials said.

Diane Byrd, whose home near the Dix River in northern Lincoln County was destroyed in the flood, said she was glad to hear there would be federal aid available. She and her family lost nearly everything.

"I hope it doesn't take a long time to make this available," she said.

She hopes to get her family under one roof soon. She and her husband have been staying one place and her two teenage children another.

The declaration made money available to government agencies and some non-profit organizations in seven counties — Rockcastle, Monroe, Metcalfe, Allen, Hart, Lewis and Logan — to deal with the cost of removing flood debris, repairing damage to roads and bridges, and other public costs.

It also clears the way for the Small Business Administration to make loans to repair or replace homes and businesses. A team from the agency is in the state, and business owners can start applying for loans, Beshear said.

That process will be handled by small-business assessment teams at the county level, according to a news release.

Beshear said in a news release that he appreciated Obama's quick response in declaring a major disaster in Kentucky.

"Many across the commonwealth will need assistance rebuilding, and the federal aid will help our communities recover as quickly as possible," Beshear said.