Kentucky Fish and Wildlife flood response update - Aug. 5, 2022

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Aug. 5, 2022

UPDATE: Eastern Kentucky flood response

Ryan Jones supply delivery

Already loaded down with several packs of bottled water, sports drinks and soft drinks, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commissioner Rich Storm squeezes a few air conditioners into the back of an SUV parked near the Mountain Parkway in Powell County.

It is 6:15 a.m. on Monday and spitting rain. The thick cloud cover overhead is delaying daybreak.

The drinks, donated by Northern Kentucky Quail Forever, and the new air conditioning units that Storm picked up the night before are going to Hazard, and specifically to conservation officers gathered at the National Guard Armory. The officers will distribute the supplies while out on missions in sweltering heat and high humidity to help residents of eastern Kentucky who were impacted by last week’s catastrophic flash flooding.

It is the first of several supply delivery trips the Commissioner will make to the area over the next four days.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staff responded as the creeks and rivers swelled; before the waters started receding, even as some staff were dealing with substantial property losses of their own.

By Thursday, the massive emergency response had shifted from search and rescue mode to disaster relief.

The department remains involved at the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Frankfort and at the Area Command EOC at the Hazard Armory.  Mission planning and coordination between local, state and federal agencies occur daily at these hubs. Col. Eric Gibson, Maj. Jeremy McQueary, Capt. Greg Watts, Capt. David Marques, Lt. Jason Slone, Lt. William Earlywine and Lt. Scott McIntosh have coordinated department’s response through the EOCs. 

Public and media interest in the department’s response to the disaster has been strong. Chief Communications Officer Kevin Kelly has worked with numerous media, providing up-to-date information and coordinating interviews with staff. He also has provided assistance to the Frankfort EOC by fielding and responding to requests for information.

ABC News screengrab

Three-dozen conservation officers from across the state have worked in the areas hardest hit by flooding. The third detail of officers rotated in on Wednesday.

As of Thursday, conservation officers had assisted with more than 160 missions and 130 rescues, conducted wellness checks, provided security and delivered much-needed supplies, including food, water, generators and air conditioners, to area residents in need.

Reporters with WKYT-TV (Lexington)WUKY 91.3 FM (Lexington) and ABC News accompanied conservation officers Glenn Griffie, Ethan Vincent, Dakota Turner and Kyle Clark on missions earlier this week to document conservation officers’ efforts in the flood zone.

The death toll from the flooding stood at 37 victims as of 4 p.m. Friday. More than two dozen of those victims were recovered by conservation officers. Undoubtedly, the death toll would be higher had it not been for the actions of conservation officers and many other first responders. 

Conservation officers are now fulfilling law enforcement roles in affected counties, assisting Kentucky State Police and Kentucky National Guard in the law enforcement role.

Staff from the Wildlife and Engineering, Infrastructure and Technology divisions and the Commissioner’s Office have assisted response and relief efforts on the ground as well.

As noted in an earlier department update, Commissioner Storm and Deputy Commissioner Brian Clark on July 29 delivered equipment and supplies to staff who suffered property damage and losses, and helped Engineering staff Nick Ray and Tom Burberry to clear debris deposited by mudslides and flooding on roads.

Debris and surface damage to roadways caused by the floodwaters posed significant travel hazards in the immediate aftermath. To reduce downtime caused by flat tires, Kevin Rexroat obtained surplus wheels and tires. Ray and Burberry took those materials along with a skid loader when they visited the area on July 29.

A chainsaw crew of Wildlife Division staff led by Southeast Wildlife Region Coordinator Mike Strunk also helped with debris removal in the immediate aftermath of the floods.

Merle Hacker, J.J. Baker, Ryan Jones and other staff from the Wildlife Division also connected with World Central Kitchen and have been delivering meals to area residents in hard-to-reach areas.

Through Thursday, Wildlife Division staff had delivered more than 5,100 hot meals, more than 700 sandwiches, more than 270 cases of water and several cases of cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, wipes and diapers.

Commissioner generator

Storm traveled to the area Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to drop off air conditioners, generators, dehumidifiers, fans and other supplies for donation.

While driving Monday on KY 476 along Troublesome Creek, one of the areas hit hardest by flooding, the Commissioner stopped to visit with a family of four whose home had been flooded. Camouflage clothing draped over a clothesline in the family’s front yard caught his attention. The family was without running water and electricity. Because many of their belongings, which had to be moved out of the house, were piled in the front yard, the father had been sleeping in his car at night to deter looters.

Storm returned the next day and provided the family a generator and air conditioner. 

Other staff have traveled to the flood-impacted region on their own time and assisted family, friends and total strangers in need.

Patrol trucks in high water

As we saw in the aftermath of the December tornadoes that devastated parts of western Kentucky, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife staff are quick to respond to help our communities in difficult times.

To those who have responded to this natural disaster, your efforts and contributions are appreciated across the agency. You represent the best of us and the Commonwealth.

As Deputy Commissioner Clark noted in an email to staff earlier this week, the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund portal has been set up to receive donations and provide assistance to those affected by the recent flooding. Additional relief organizations that are collecting donations and coordinating private volunteers to assist in the relief efforts specific to the eastern Kentucky flooding include:

If you would like to make a monetary contribution to help our department staff members who have suffered material losses, please see Jenny Gilbert or Deputy Commissioner Clark in the Commissioner’s office.

JJ Baker food delivery