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McConnell says Kentuckians should be prepared for ‘long haul’ tornado recovery

Debris is scattered across a field in Briensburg, Kentucky, following December’s deadly storm that stretched through four states.
Ryland Barton
Debris is scattered across a field in Briensburg, Kentucky, following December’s deadly storm that stretched through four states.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised first responders and political leaders for their effort after last month’s devastating tornadoes.

During a stop in Kentucky on Tuesday, McConnell toured the Kentucky Emergency Operations Center in Frankfort and met with people helping with the ongoing cleanup and recovery effort in western and southern parts of the state.

The seven-term Republican said he was impressed by the collection of state and federal agencies working together to respond to the disaster.

“We’re staying in close touch with the state administration and all of these folks to make sure if there’s any other federal assistance that we can tap, we want to be able to do it,” McConnell said.

Earlier this month, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signeda measure setting aside $200 million for tornadorelief efforts, including money for temporary housing and wrap-around social services at schools. The bill unanimously passed out of the Republican-led legislature.

The cleanup effort is massive.According to WKMS, the tornado that hit Graves County created an estimated 2 million cubic yards of debris—enough to fill the Empire State Building one and a half times over.

McConnell said people need to be prepared for government agencies to be involved in the recovery process “for the long haul.”

“This is not going to get better as quickly as they would like or we would like. So don’t give up hope, look forward. Let’s rebuild,” McConnell said.

During his visit, McConnell met with Republican lawmakers, who are in the middle of writing a new two-year state budget during the annual legislative session.

McConnell said he would advise legislators on how to spend Kentucky’s share of the$1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, advocating for projects like a companion bridge for the aging Brent Spence Bridge connecting Cincinnati to Covington and a new I-69 bridge connecting Henderson and Evansville.

He bemoaned fellow Republicans in Congress who voted against the infrastructure bill.

“I think it was an important accomplishment for the country. Regretfully I was one of only two members of the Kentucky delegation to vote for it,” McConnell said.

McConnell also talked about growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, saying he believes President Joe Biden is “moving in the right direction” after the president putU.S. troops on alert to take action.

“What I’ve been hearing since then is encouraging, that they’re prepared to take steps before an incursion, not afterwards,” McConnell said.

Russia has gathered an estimated 100,000troops near Ukraine’s border, provoking worries that the country is preparing for an invasion.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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