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Obama Declares Disaster In Kentucky

President Barack Obama has granted Kentucky’s Governor Steve Beshear’s request for a federal disaster declaration in the wake of this week’s winter storm.

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

 

 

President Obama approves Governor Beshear’s request for federal disaster declaration to speed relief

Beshear, Conway implement price gouging statues to protect Kentuckians

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 29, 2009) –

President Barack Obama last night approved Gov. Steve Beshear’s request for an emergency Presidential Disaster Declaration that will expedite assistance to people in need across the commonwealth.

“President Obama called me last night to express his concern about the plight facing our state and many of our people. I appreciate the president’s quick response to our request for a disaster declaration,” Gov. Beshear said as he traveled throughout Western Kentucky to meet with local officials and survey damage to the region. “We will move quickly to bring power generators, communications equipment and debris removal equipment into the region to help restore power and protect our people in their time of need.”

As of Thursday morning, nearly 600,000 customers across Kentucky were without power, a number that was expected to grow in the aftermath of the icy winter storm that walloped much of the state Monday and Tuesday. There were also three fatalities linked to the storms.

This week’s storm marks the second largest power outage in the state’s history. The only larger outage occurred six months ago in the wake of Hurricane Ike when 600,000 customers lost power. With this storm – and with Hurricane Ike six months ago – Kentucky has now had the two largest outages in the commonwealth’s history.

As of last night, 68 counties had declared emergencies and 36 cities had declared an emergency as well. In addition, 91 shelters have been opened statewide, Gov. Beshear said.

“It is just astounding that we would have two such widespread, yet very different, disasters within the span of six months,” Gov. Beshear said. “But, while I am urging folks to be patient as we work to restore power and services, I want them to know that their state government is doing everything possible to ensure their safety and well being during this disaster.”

Other actions being taken include:

· Some 500 National Guardsmen have been activated across the state to help with relief efforts. Gov. Beshear also has approved the use of two Blackhawk helicopters to assist the state’s largest utility, Kentucky Utilities, with surveying damaged areas and locating downed and damaged transmission lines throughout the state.

· A request for joint public disaster assistance that will allow state and federal officials to work together to simultaneously gather damage assessments in communities to expedite reimbursement from the federal government.

“Because this situation is so dire, involving ice and freezing cold conditions, we are asking for a joint declaration to try to speed the process of reimbursement,” Gov. Beshear said.

· Gov. Beshear, along with Attorney General Jack Conway, has triggered the state’s price gouging statutes to investigate any complaints of price gouging that may occur relative to gas, heating and building supplies in the aftermath of the storm. The same statutes were triggered during the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. General Conway encourages anyone with specific information regarding possible price gouging to contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1-888-432-9257 or to email icestormcomplaints@ag.ky.gov. He also encourages Kentuckians to stay safe.

· Transportation crews were working in 105 of Kentucky’s 120 counties to unblock and treat roads. As part of the governor’s state emergency order, bucket trucks are being allowed to bypass weigh stations on the interstates to expedite their help in restoring power during the crisis.