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Kentucky Tornado Death Toll Climbs to 20; Daniels Declares Emergency in S. Indiana

State officials say 20 people are now confirmed dead from Friday’s tornado outbreak that tore through communities across Kentucky. More than 300 are injured.

Gov. Steve Beshear and other officials toured the devastation Saturday.

“The scope and magnitude of devastation in some of our communities is unlike anything I have ever seen,” Beshear said. “I’ve been in close contact with President Obama since Thursday to ensure we will have the resources our families will need to recover from these storms.”

Beshear has dispatched more than 300 Kentucky National Guard troops to the hardest hit areas. They include the Morgan County community of West Liberty (pictured), in eastern Kentucky, where six people were killed.

The governor has scheduled a 4:00pm press conference for an update on the state’s response to the disaster.

In hard-hit southern Indiana, the death toll is at least 12. A two year old girl who was found in a field in Washington County, Indiana remains in critical condition at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville. Her parents and two young siblings were killed in the storm.

Governor Mitch Daniels today issued a disaster declaration for eleven southern Indiana counties: Clark, Gibson, Harrison, Jefferson, Posey, Ripley, Scott, Shelby, Vanderburgh, Warrick and Washington.

Here’s the latest news release from the office of Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 4, 2012) – Local and state emergency officials urge citizens to use extreme caution following Friday’s severe storms and tornadoes that caused widespread damage, injuries and loss of life. The Kentucky Department of Public Health reports 20 fatalities from the storms, and more than 300 people have been reported injured.

After visiting some of the worst impacted areas on Saturday, Gov. Steve Beshear warned Kentuckians to heed warnings from emergency managers to stay off the roads and away from affected communities.

“Unfortunately, after a disaster like the one we have experienced, people take to the road for one of two reasons: to offer unsolicited help, or to tour the damage. That’s not helpful to our emergency responders,” said Gov. Beshear. “Our emergency responders and National Guard troops need immediate and unfettered access to our roads, and they can’t effectively continue that work if they’re fighting traffic.”

People who want to offer assistance to affected communities should contact their local Red Cross chapter for information. Emergency managers strongly discourage people from traveling to these communities to offer help.

Interested parties wanting to make donations should go to http://kyem.ky.gov/recovery/Pages/VolunteerCoordination.aspx for directions and list of registered charities and affiliates.

Residents should be wary of using alternate heat and power sources, some of which emit carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that can cause sudden illness and death. Carbon monoxide safety tips can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/co/guidelines.htm. Never run a generator indoors; never use a charcoal grill indoors. Be sure to follow manufacturers’ safety instructions when using alternate heat sources such as kerosene heaters. .

Residents beginning clean-up work should exercise great caution when entering damaged buildings. Never re-enter until the structure has been inspected and deemed safe by a qualified person. Be sure electric and gas have been shut off or disconnected. These and other safety tips on returning to your damaged home can be found at http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/return.shtm .

Friends or family who have been unable to locate loved ones since Friday’s storms are encouraged to register the missing person’s information on the Kentucky Emergency Management website at www.kyem.ky.gov or through the American Red Cross Safe and Well Program at www.americanredcross.org.

Several shelters have opened by the Red Cross to accommodate citizens displaced by the storm:

Morgan Central Elementary School

3201 Highway 460

West Liberty, KY

Grant County High School

715 Warsaw Rd.

Dry Ridge, KY

Morgan Community Center

147 Victory Ave.

Bedford, KY

Additional information

· The Governor has deployed a total of 387 National Guard Troops.

· The Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction has dispatched five general inspectors to assist with building assessments in counties hit by storms.

· Kentucky State Parks is offering a special rate to storm victims. Kentuckians can call a park for more detail. View www.parks.ky.gov for numbers and locations.

· The disaster response team of the Kentucky Department of Insurance went to Hardin and LaRue counties Saturday and met with emergency management officials to find areas hit hardest by Wednesday’s storms. Team members are giving out copies of the agency’s “Before and After the Storm” publication that includes information on what to expect during the claims process and tips dealing with an insurance adjuster. Copies of the publication have been sent to all local officials in these affected counties, and the team is monitoring responses of insurance companies to ensure an adequate number of adjusters are on the ground.

The Department of Insurance is working to send disaster response team members and materials into other counties hit by Friday’s storm. For more information, view www.insurance.ky.gov or call 1-800-595-6053.

(Photo courtesy of Kentucky National Guard)

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Local News

Kentucky Tornado Death Toll Rises; Beshear Deploys National Guard

The death toll in Kentucky from Friday’s tornado outbreak is now at least twelve. Fatalities have been recorded in Menifee, Kenton, Laurel and Morgan counties and more than two hundred people have been injured statewide.

Governor Steve Beshear has declared a statewide state of emergency, clearing the way for local officials to seek state disaster and other assistance.

The governor has also authorized the deployment of some 275 National Guard troops to the hardest hit areas.

The severe weather that struck Kentucky spawned at least 13 tornadoes.

Beshear will tour the tornado-ravaged areas this morning.

Here’s the latest release from the governor’s office:

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 2, 2012) – Governor Steve Beshear has authorized a total of 275 National Guard Troops to assist Johnson, Laurel, Magoffin, Menifee and Morgan counties with storm-related damages.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health has confirmed a total of 12 fatalities reported to the agency by local coroners. Four fatalities have been reported in Menifee County, four in Laurel County, three in Kenton County, and one in Morgan County. More than 200 injuries have been reported.

Saturday morning, Gov. Beshear will tour several counties hit by the severe weather throughout Friday. He will tour Morgan, Menifee and Kenton counties with Gen. Ed Tonini, Sen. Damon Thayer, of Georgetown, and Sen. Robert Stivers, of Manchester.

Gov. Beshear declared a statewide emergency earlier today to allow local officials immediate access to state resources to assist in public safety and recovery efforts. Several local communities have declared states of emergency: Bath, Campbell, Johnson, Kenton, Laurel, Rowan, and Trimble counties and the city of Paintsville.

Trained spotters and law enforcement officers throughout the state reported 13 tornadoes in Kentucky, according to Kentucky Emergency Management.

Damage assessments and rescue missions will continue through the night. Severe storms began rolling across the Commonwealth this afternoon beginning in the far western part of the state and moved north and east of the Ohio river from Indiana.

Several shelters have opened by the Red Cross to accommodate citizens displaced by the storm:

· Elliott County High School

Main Street

Sandy Hook, KY

· Lawrence County High School

100 Bulldog Lane

Louisa, KY

· Grant County High School

715 Warsaw Rd.

Dry Ridge, KY

· Laurel Fire Dept.

911 TLC Lane

London, KY

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Frankfort Local News

Williams Blasts Beshear’s Tax Commission for Lacking Experts

Kentucky Senate President David Williams has several criticisms for Governor Steve Beshear’s recently-appointed tax commission.

Williams proposed creating such a commission during his bid for governor last year. But says Beshear’s commission lacks the guidance and experience to change Kentucky’s tax code. The Senate President says the majority of the commission is made up of Beshear’s friends and political allies.

“That there were some people with qualification on there,” he says. “But the vast majority of the people that were appointed to that committee had no expertise in taxation. They weren’t economists, aren’t tax experts, they aren’t CPAs, they aren’t lawyers and what we need is someone to draw up a tax plan and propose a tax plan.”

 

Williams’s proposed panel would have included economists and it would have been charged with completely rewriting the state’s tax code.

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Frankfort Local News

Stumbo Has Questions About Gambling Amendment, May Change Wording

Changes could already be coming to Governor Steve Beshear’s proposed gambling amendment.

The amendment would allow up to seven casinos in Kentucky, with five of them based at horse racing tracks. House Speaker Greg Stumbo supports expanded gaming in Kentucky, but he still has major questions about the amendment. And Stumbo says those questions will likely lead to changes to the measure if it can pass the state Senate.

“Well just from listening to members talk there’s a number of members who have concerns about giving these constitutional guaranteed licenses to private businesses,” he says. “And I think if it’s gonna muster enough support there’s probably gonna gave to be some answer to that question.”

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Frankfort Local News

Beshear Confident Medicaid Managed Care Problems Will Be Resolved

Governor Steve Beshear says the problems with Kentucky’s new Medicaid Managed Care system will be resolved.

Beshear pushed for the managed care system last year to take some of the administrative burden of Medicaid off of the state. But earlier this week, doctors, pharmacists and hospital officials told lawmakers there were significant problems with the system. Specifically, care providers are owed millions of dollars in claim payments and have struggled to get pre-authorizations for procedures and medications.

But the governor isn’t surprised to hear about the problems.

“Look at when Passport first came online you’ll see all of the news reports and their the same problems and same kinds of problems we’re having today. Now that doesn’t mean we ought not to be addressing those problems. And we are being very aggressive from the Cabinet stand point and from my administration’s standpoint in looking at each one of those issues and resolving those issues,” he says. “I’m confident that we’re going to work through all of these issues,” Beshear says.

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Frankfort Local News

Beshear Unveils Tax Commission Members

Governor Steve Beshear has put together a bipartisan group of 23 Kentuckians to serve on his tax commission.

The group is made up partially of lawmakers from each party, although they won’t be able to vote on commission issues. Other members include former University of Kentucky president Lee Todd, banker and Republican fundraiser Marion Forcht, and Louisville businessman Junior Bridgeman.

The commission’s recommendations for changes to the state tax code are due by November 15, well after the current legislative session ends.

“To throw this issue at reforming Kentucky’s tax system out into those roiling and boiling waters at this time would simply not allow this effort to get the fair and sincere consideration that it deserves,” Beshear says. 

Categories
Local News Noise & Notes Politics

KDP Renews Call That Farmer Reimburse State for Luxury Suites

Criticisms of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer and his use of state money continue despite him donating portions of his salary to charity.

On Tuesday, Farmer, who is running for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary, apologized for refusing to participate in furlough days, which helped fill the state’s budget deficit.

The Kentucky Democratic Party is pleased with that decision, but has ratcheted up its rhetoric that the former Mr. Basketball reimburse the state for spending over $1,500 for a four-night stay at a luxury hotel during a basketball tournament.

Democratic Party spokesman Matt Erwin says everyone in state government is making sacrifices and Farmer should return that money as well.

Categories
Local News

Beshear Declares State of Emergency

With the Ohio River predicted to crest ten feet above flood stage later this week, Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency Monday due to the severe storms and flooding that have impacted the state.

Throughout the commonwealth, heavy rains and multiple rounds of severe weather have occurred causing minor rivers to flood. The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers are forecast to have major flooding with the possibility of historic flooding along the rivers at the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

From the governor’s office:

“Today I have issued this declaration in order to make sure our citizens and local officials have all the help they need to prepare and respond to these storms,” said Gov. Beshear.  “This declaration opens up the pipelines and the purse strings to enable us to get resources to where they are needed, as quickly as possible.  In addition, all of state government has been mobilized to assist Kentuckians in need.”

Categories
Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Williams Raises Close to $500,000

Outpacing his primary opponents, Republican gubernatorial candidate and state Senate President David Williams has raised $446,943 in the first quarter.

A fundraising report released by the campaign Wednesday shows Williams, who is running with Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, has raised a total of $1.2 million in the three-way GOP contest.

Earlier this week, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, who is running with former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, reported raising $1.2 million during the quarter alone. That gives Beshear $3.3 million in cash on hand.

Williams’s campaign manager Scott Jennings says the Williams-Farmer ticket is lined up to be the Republican nominee and they aren’t worried about the governor’s fundraising efforts.

Categories
Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Beshear Marks Earth Week in Kentucky

Declaring that few places compare to Kentucky’s natural beauty in the springtime, Gov. Steve Beshear proclaimed April 16-22, 2011 as Earth Week in the commonwealth.

This year’s theme is “Playground Earth: Get Outside, Kentucky!”. In response, the Energy and Environment Cabinet (EEC) plans to sponsor its first environmental photography contest for middle school students in an effort to get people outdoors.

“Research confirms that children who spend time outdoors are healthier and perform better in school,” Beshear said in a news release. “The commonwealth is blessed with natural settings that encourage exploration and provide opportunities for families to connect with nature and to get outside. I encourage Kentucky families to explore the outdoors, develop an appreciation for our state’s natural resources and become stewards of our environment.”

The governor’s sketchy environmental record, however, has been a source of ridicule among local bloggers and activists opposed to mountaintop mining in the state. The Earth Week announcement is likely to go under the news radar, but could  turn into another round of criticism that his administration is backing the coal industry in the face of the environmental concerns of Kentucky residents.