Gov. Beshear: Devastation is “unlike anything I have ever seen”

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Gov. Steve Beshear visits West Liberty, Ky on a Kentucky National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk after a tornado struck the town Mar. 2. (photo by Capt. Stephen Martin, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs)

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FRANKFORT, Ky.  (March 3, 2012) – After visiting catastrophic damages from Friday’s severe storms and tornadoes, Governor Steve Beshear spoke with both President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to relay critical emergency information and reaffirm Kentucky’s commitment to get relief to citizens quickly.

“The scope and magnitude of devastation in some of our communities is unlike anything I have ever seen,” said Gov. Beshear.  “I’ve been in close contact with President Obama since Thursday to ensure we will have the resources our families will need to recover from these storms.”

Gov. Beshear authorized the Kentucky National Guard to deploy to communities as needed to assist with lifesaving efforts, security, and traffic control.  So far, more than 220 troops have mobilized to five counties in Kentucky.

Kentucky Leadership assesses West Liberty, KY

Kentucky's Governor Steve Beshear, Maj. Gen. Ed Tonini, the adjutant general, and Brig. Gen. John Heltzel, the director of Kentucky's emergency management, assess the damage in West Liberty, Ky. after the tornados of Friday 2 March. (photo courtesy of Kentucky National Guard, Tech. Sgt. Jason Ketterer, Public Affairs).

Both Gov. Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson visited storm-stricken areas Saturday morning.  Gov. Beshear, along with Sen. Robert Stivers and Sen. Damon Thayer, toured heavy damage in communities in Morgan, Magoffin and Kenton counties.  They were joined by Rep. John Will Stacy in West Liberty, Rep. John Short in Salyersville, and Rep. Adam Koenig in Piner.

Lt. Gov. Abramson assessed damage in the community of East Bernstadt in Laurel County with Sen. Tom Jenson.

“Gov. Beshear and I will do everything in our power to speed resources and assistance to our communities as we begin to recover from these storms,” said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.  “The damage to some of our towns is nearly incomprehensible.  This is a difficult time, and we are holding all affected Kentuckians in our thoughts and prayers.”

Storm Numbers

The Kentucky Department of Public Health reports 18 fatalities from the storm:

  • Johnson Co.:  2
  • Kenton Co.:  3
  • Lawrence Co.:  2
  • Laurel Co.:  5
  • Menifee Co.:  2
  • Morgan Co.:  4

Approximately 300 injuries have been reported.

Gov. Beshear declared a statewide emergency Friday to allow local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in public safety and recovery efforts.  Twelve counties have declared states of emergency: Bath, Campbell, Johnson, Kenton, Laurel, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Ohio, Pendleton, Rowan, and Trimble counties as well as the city of Paintsville.

Trained spotters and law enforcement officers throughout the state reported tornadoes in 19 different counties, according to Kentucky Emergency Management.  Twenty-seven additional counties have reported damage.

Damage assessments and rescue missions continue.  Severe storms began rolling across the Commonwealth Friday afternoon beginning in the far western part of the state and moved north and east of the Ohio River from Indiana.

Avoid Traveling in Communities with Storm Damage

Gov. Beshear strongly urged Kentuckians to heed warnings from emergency managers and stay off the roads and away from affected communities.

“Unfortunately, after a disaster like the one we have experienced, people take to the road for one of two reasons:  to offer unsolicited help, or to tour the damage.  That’s not helpful to our emergency responders,” said Gov. Beshear.  “Our emergency responders and National Guard troops need immediate and unfettered access to our roads, and they can’t effectively continue that work if they’re fighting traffic.”

People who want to offer assistance to affected communities should contact their local Red Cross chapter for information.  Emergency managers strongly discourage people from traveling to these communities to offer help.

Missing Persons

Friends or family who have been unable to locate loved ones since Friday’s storms are encouraged to register the missing person’s information on the Kentucky Emergency Management website at www.kyem.ky.gov or through the American Red Cross Safe and Well Program at www.americanredcross.org.

Meeting Critical Needs

Several shelters have opened by the Red Cross to accommodate citizens displaced by the storm:

  • Elliott County High School

Main Street

Sandy Hook, KY

  • Lawrence County High School

100 Bulldog Lane

Louisa, KY

  • Grant County High School

715 Warsaw Rd.

Dry Ridge, KY

  • Laurel Fire Dept.

911 TLC Lane

London, KY

  • Morgan Co. Community Center

147 Victory Ave.

Bedford, KY

For media updates, contact the Commonwealth Joint Information Center at 502-607-6901, 502-607-6903, or 502-607-6904.

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Weather safety tips and weather alerts by county can be found on the Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM) website at www.kyem.ky.gov.  Road conditions are available at www.511.ky.gov.

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