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WV, KY become 'disaster central'

Some residents are survivors of multiple disasters as floods, ice, winds, pelt area

BY ZACHARY HOFFMAN | BALTIMORE | August 24, 2009


"We’re just praying that we don’t get much more rain"

—Albert Houghs, Eastern Kentucky Long Term Recovery Coordinating Committee


Parts of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky recovering from spring flooding cannot seem to get a break from bad weather this year.

“Kentucky has definitely had more disasters this year than normal. In January we had the ice storm, February the straight line wind storms, May – tornadoes, as well as the flooding, and then the Louisville flooding in August,” said Sherry Buresh from Christian Appalachian Project Disaster Relief.

“Those are just the big disasters. We’ve had many small floods and tornadoes too,” Buresh added.

Albert Houghs from the Eastern Kentucky Long Term Recovery Coordinating Committee (EKLTRCC) said, “Pike county has had two more floods since the May floods, where people had not had damage initially or had just gotten things set, and moved back in.”

Buresh worked with one family that lost their home in the February straight line winds; they had to move in with their daughter and her family. In May, the daughter’s home was flooded. They were homeless for the second time in three months.

Tragedy, however, is met in equal measure by faith-based disaster relief organizations working together to finish repairs quickly and efficiently.

A little church in Pike County, Kentucky, Hardy United Methodist Church, with only about 30 or 40 members, not affected by flooding, fed more than 300 people every day for well over a week.

“They fed whomever could come, and with the Fire Department and four-wheelers to reach whoever couldn’t,” said Houghs.

“Money is tight,” said Cheryl Ingraham of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and chair of the WV Council of Churches. “Faith-based non-profits are stretched thin, collaboration is so much more important.”

Initially, Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS), Baptist Disaster Relief, Southern Baptist disaster teams, Christian Appalachian Project Disaster Relief partnered with the Kentucky Housing Association, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and many other organizations responded to the spring floods.

“We mucked out, removed debris, furnishings, etc., and sanitized homes,” said Sherry Buresh. “We also provided emergency disaster supplies.”

Now recovery has moved into a long-term phase, where some of these organizations continue to provide volunteers to assist in rebuilding and funding. Long-Term Recovery Committees (LTRC) have taken over their counties, and un-met needs assessments are being conducted.

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) will be conducting needs assessments from September 12 through 26 in West Virginia. They will collect the assessments, prioritize the cases and turn them over to case managers, according to Becky Purdom of CRWRC.

In Breatstchitt County, KY, 145 families turned in un-met needs applications. In West Virginia, 4,600 people filed claims with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), about ten percent of these are expected to need assessments for un-met needs.

FEMA has provided more than $26 million to West Virginia for disaster relief from the spring flooding.

"We are continuing our work with the State to accomplish recovery from the storms last May," said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Gregory Eaton. "And while our first concern is individuals and business owners who had flood damage, we will also partner with the State in identifying and funding projects that help reduce future flood losses."

“With the number of disasters we’ve had, help is still needed in many of our counties,” said Sherry Buresh.

“We’re just praying that we don’t get much more rain,” said Houghs. “But with the weather patterns and tropical storms -- we’ve had rain almost every day in some areas.”


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Helping hands following 3 disasters


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