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FEMA teams due in Kentucky Thursday to assess flood damage

Teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are due in Kentucky Thursday to begin assessing the damage from widespread flooding last weekend.

Several FEMA teams are scheduled to arrive Thursday and then head out to various counties on Friday, said Buddy Rogers, spokesman for the state Division of Emergency Management.

That work will help determine if President Obama declares a disaster in the state, which would make aid available to the state, local governments, businesses and homeowners.

The threshold for the state to qualify is $5.2 million, Rogers said.

State and local officials have not finished calculating an estimate of flood damage, but believe it will be far in excess of $5 million.

High water damaged roads, bridges and other public infrastructure, as well as homes and businesses, in many areas. More than half the 120 counties declared emergencies.

"We feel very confident we will meet and exceed the federal thresholds," Rogers said.

The damage to state roads alone could be in the millions.

Crews have been working to repair broken pavement and washed-out culverts and clear mudslides, but some roads are still closed and some have only one lane open, the Transportation Cabinet said in a news release.

In Danville, the Pioneer Playhouse was working to clean up after its backstage area was submerged, according to the Danville Advocate-Messenger. The playhouse's season is slated to open June 11. A recording at the playhouse said a volunteer cleanup day is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Water on Sunday nearly reached the roof of another area landmark, Penn's Store in Gravel Switch (Marion County), and the store is closed indefinitely, Jeanne Penn Lane of the store told the Advocate-Messenger.

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Beshear's office announced he had asked U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to declare a disaster related to Kentucky agriculture.

That declaration would make farmers eligible for various types of aid.

Farmers lost crops and livestock because of the flooding and suffered damage to buildings, fencing and equipment, state officials said.

Bill Clary, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, said one key problem is damage to the state's corn crop, particularly in Western Kentucky.

The extent of the damage will depend in part on how long water covers fields. But more than half the corn crop has probably been destroyed in some spots, Clary said.

The death toll in Kentucky from the flooding remained at four Wednesday. A search was under way for a Hardin County man missing since Monday after his kayak overturned in the swollen Green River in Hart County.

Volunteers scanning the river by boat on Wednesday found a kayak and backpack belonging to Bobby Atcher of Radcliff said Kerry McDaniel, emergency management director for Hart County.

A friend kayaking with Atcher, Gary Tyler, called state police by cell phone after the two ran into trouble. Tyler, whose kayak had capsized, held onto floating logs until rescuers reached him.

Several young men in Pike County had a close call Tuesday evening with swift, high water in Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River, near Elkhorn City. Doug Tackett, the county's emergency management director, said five men in their late teens or early 20s were on the river in a small boat when it capsized. Three managed to get to the bank, but two clung to trees in the river, Tackett said.

The current was too fast to get a rope or kayak to the two at first. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shut down the flow from a dam upstream, lowering the level and speed of the river, Tackett said.

As a helicopter from Wings Air Rescue, an air ambulance service, illuminated the river with a large spotlight, rescuers got ropes to the two men about midnight, Tackett said.

The two were taken to a hospital for treatment of hypothermia, Tackett said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Coast Guard barred recreational boating on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, including Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.

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