Kentucky flood victims to get up to 300 donated trailers
FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky will receive up to 300 donated travel trailers from Louisiana to shelter people displaced by historic flooding that ravaged parts of Appalachia, the governors of both states said Wednesday.
The first 65 donated trailers are being transported this week to a couple of hard-hit eastern Kentucky counties, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said. More trailers will be sent to the region in phases, to be placed away from flood zones but near areas devastated by floodwaters, he said.
Louisiana’s assistance comes as Kentucky officials try to arrange intermediate housing for families whose homes washed away or were inundated with water and mud, making them uninhabitable.
“This is a huge help,” a grateful Beshear said in announcing the donation. “The only costs that we have in these trailers is the transportation. And I think it saves us about $40,000-plus per trailer. We have sent our people down to inspect them. They are in incredible shape.”
The donated trailers originally were acquired to shelter people displaced by Hurricane Ida in 2021.
“We understand the importance of helping people in the aftermath of a natural disaster, including helping them find shelter as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news release.
Nearly 350 people displaced by the flooding are still staying at Kentucky state parks. Raging floodwaters in late July destroyed homes and businesses and caused significant damage to schools, roads, bridges and water systems. The disaster caused at least 39 deaths in Kentucky and robbed thousands of families of all their possessions. Some people have stayed in tents, unwilling to leave their property.
By Tuesday, 289 people had moved into 119 travel trailers in the flood-stricken region, Beshear said. Those trailers previously housed people whose homes were destroyed by tornadoes that tore through western Kentucky in December.
Another 88 trailers are on the way to eastern Kentucky, including 65 from Louisiana, he said.
“We’ve seen amazing helpers throughout Kentucky and throughout the country,” Beshear said. “And now we’re seeing Gov. Edwards and the state of Louisiana helping our people with critical shelter. Unfortunately, folks in Louisiana know a lot about what we’re going through.”
Last week, Kentucky lawmakers passed a nearly $213 million aid package for the flood-ravaged region. The relief legislation included assistance for intermediate housing, and some of the money will be used to transport and prepare the trailers for occupancy, Beshear said Wednesday. The measure will help repair or rebuild roads, bridges, water systems, schools and other public buildings.
Republican Kentucky state Sen. Brandon Smith, who represents some of the counties hit by the flooding, tried unsuccessfully to insert an extra $50 million for housing assistance into the relief legislation. The flood has left thousands of people living in badly damaged houses, many tarped over to keep out the rain, he said.
“We are getting ready to see a crisis that will be historic across Appalachia,” Smith said last week.
On Wednesday, Smith thanked Louisiana officials for their “kind generosity in our most urgent time of need.” But he called on Beshear to provide “more transparency on when and where” the additional trailers will be made available. Smith warned that without a long-term housing solution, the region’s population drain will intensify. Eastern Kentucky was already struggling from the decline of the coal industry.
The relief measure’s leading supporters have said the bill includes significant money to address the housing situation. The measure was portrayed as an initial installment of aid, with lawmakers expected to consider follow-up assistance when they convene in January. And they expressed concern that Smith’s proposal would have threatened the ability to maximize assistance from the federal government.
Beshear on Wednesday offered assurances that intermediate housing will be available “as long as it takes” as eastern Kentucky faces the long process of rebuilding from the disaster.
“We are in this for the long haul,” he said.