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Beshear praises tornado recovery efforts, gives east Ky. flood update during Mayfield visit

Gov. Andy Beshear shares his thoughts with the Mayfield Rotary Club on the community's ongoing efforts to recover from the December tornado outbreak.
Lily Burris
Gov. Andy Beshear shares his thoughts with the Mayfield Rotary Club on the community's ongoing efforts to recover from the December tornado outbreak.

Gov. Andy Beshear shared updates on tornado recovery and discussed community resilience at a Mayfield Rotary Club meeting on Monday, nearly eight months after devastating tornadoes hit the community and just days after deadly floods swept through eastern Kentucky.

At the meeting, Beshear also shared an anecdote about how the Mayfield community is supporting communities impacted by the ongoing flooding in eastern Kentucky.

Mayfield Mayor Kathy O’Nan also shared she had been in touch with the mayor of Hindman, which has been devastated by flooding in recent days. She asked Hindman’s mayor if gift cards would help the community and told the Rotary Club she would be collecting gift cards from Walmart, Lowes and Tractor Supply Co.

“The mayor and the [fire department] chief said the world was there for them, for you, for us when we needed them the most, and you wanted to be there for the people of Eastern Kentucky when they were in their toughest times,” Beshear said. “I've never been prouder to be your governor.”

Beshear shared stories from the first days after the tornado, such as seeing the damage at Mayfield Consumer Products with O’Nan, and the groundbreaking for the first rebuilds with Homes and Hope Co-Chair Heather Nesler, who confirmed at the meeting that the group has received their first distribution from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

“I want to thank everybody in this room for stepping up and helping your community and, you know what, living out the four part creed, living out our faith and our values,” Beshear said. “The work that you have done, and other rotaries in the area, have actually brought in $300,000 of donations to help the people damaged by tornadoes. That's pretty special.”

The governor remarked on how much progress has been made in the area with debris removal, homes being rebuilt and companies coming in to make new jobs. He said he knows homes still need to be rebuilt and that there needs to be a reason for people to stay, in the region.

Beshear described Mayfield as “committed, strong, rebuilding” and said the community is giving hope to people in the east who are dealing with catastrophic flooding. He acknowledged the low approval rating for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for December tornado outbreak survivors was “unacceptable” and that he wants to see FEMA do better in eastern Kentucky.

“Each and every person and what you've done, we are in awe of you, and I hope you feel that we are here with you in spirit, even if we are not on the ground every day,” Beshear said. “This commitment is long term, every single bit that it takes.”

He recapped some of the uses of the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, including the creation of the Graves County Grain Assistance Program, which was initially slated to receive about $3.25 million from the funds. Beshear said the fund will likely use about $6 million from the fund to go to area farmers. He also touched on funding from the federal and state governments, the American Red Cross and the State Aid Funding for Emergencies created by the General Assembly.

Beshear also shared his hope for Kentucky to become a top ten state economy even with many areas across the state devastated by natural disaster.

“It's really heavy the last couple of years, but as challenging as our present is, we have a chance for a brighter and more optimistic future for our kids than I ever thought was possible, and that's going to make all of this worth it — the pushing through the difficulty, the days of rebuilding,” Beshear said. “If we can leave that type of Commonwealth for our kids, we’ll have lived out our faith and values and we can leave an amazing legacy for the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Lily Burris is a tornado recovery reporter for WKMS, Murray State's NPR Station. Her nine month reporting project is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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