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Beshear pledges support for Hopkinsville after Saturday tornado

Hoptown Chronicle
Jennifer P. Brown
Gov. Andy Beshear (left) talks with Hopkinsville Fire Chief Steve Futrell (center) and Christian County Emergency Manager Randy Graham at the Hopkinsville Municipal Center.

The state will seek a federal disaster declaration following severe weather over the weekend in Hopkinsville and other Kentucky communities.

Gov. Andy Beshear said during a stop Monday morning in Hopkinsville that he’ll seek a disaster declaration from the federal government to help the city and other Kentucky communities affected by severe weather on New Year’s Day. A declaration separate from the one approved following the Dec. 10-11 tornadoes will be required, he said.

“I know that this is a tough community that is ready for emergencies like this, and …we all know that we are blessed that no one was lost in the midst of this tornado,” Beshear said to a group of elected officials, city employees and residents at the Hopkinsville Municipal Center.

“I wanted to be here today to make sure I could see it first-hand and to pledge that we are going to help — to help rebuild where needed to ensure that you get the full attention of the state and at the appropriate time the federal government as well,” he said.

An EF-2 tornado hit the east side of downtown Hopkinsville on Saturday morning.

“It went through 18 city blocks,” said Christian County Emergency Manager Randy Graham said. “During that path, it affected 85 residences, 13 businesses and two churches.”

No injuries were reported. The Red Cross was providing lodging at an Oak Grove motel for one Hopkinsville family that was displaced.

“It’s not as bad as it could have been,” said Mayor Wendell Lynch. “It’s bad, but it could have been much, much worse.”

State and county officials were still assessing the damages from the weekend storms to apply for federal assistance, said Graham.

In addition, the state is applying for a 60-day extension on the first federal disaster declaration that was approved after the December tornadoes. It guaranteed coverage for 100% of the cost of debris removal, and for temporary housing, for 30 days.

“Thus far we have received everything that we have asked for from the federal government, so we’re going to ask for a little more,” said Beshear.

The governor said he also plans to seek state funding to help communities affected by the tornadoes.

“I’m going to be pushing the General Assembly in this first week — and I believe we have extensive support — for the state to cover any county and city costs from that,” he said. “We have a very healthy budget. We ought to be there in this time of need.”

Beshear said it will take months to complete debris removal in communities that suffered the most devastation in the December tornadoes. Mayfield, Dawson Springs and Princeton are among those. Pembroke and southern Christian County also sustained heavy damages.

Hoptown Chronicle
Jennifer P. Brown
Beshear talks with Eastside Neighborhood Association President Christy Madyun.

The governor and others praised first-responders, utility workers and volunteers who came out to help immediately after Saturday’s tornado.

“There wasn’t a warning but the response of the city, I would like to say, was impeccable,” said Christy Madyun, who is president of the Eastside Neighborhood Association.

She said the city’s police, fire and street departments responded quickly, along with the Hopkinsville Electric System.

“We had people outside the community who saw the need and stepped up,” said Madyun. “They all came with chain saws and trucks, and without question there was help.”

Graham said 1,600 HES customers lost power Saturday morning. As of Monday, only 20 were waiting to have power restored because they needed to have an electrician make repairs at their residences first.

Many of the homes damaged Saturday were rental properties, and the residents are uninsured or under-insured, said Madyun.

Although details are pending about federal assistance, Graham said anyone needing information about how to apply for help should call his office at 270-887-6253

After Beshear addressed the group at the municipal center, he was planning to survey the damages in Hopkinsville before heading to Mayfield to check on storm recovery efforts there.

Jennifer P. Brown is the founder and editor of Hoptown Chronicle.