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Frankfort Local News

Lawmakers Raise More Than $20,000 For Disaster Relief

Kentucky lawmakers and their staffs have raised more than twenty thousand dollars for disaster relief this week.

Members of the Kentucky General Assembly had set a goal of ten thousand dollars to donate to the Red Cross in the wake of tornadoes that struck eastern and northern Kentucky last week.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo’s office handled the donations. Today, Stumbo announced to his chamber they had surpassed their goal.

“I am proud to report today, that due to efforts of all of you and our staff and those who so generously come forward, we have not only reached that goal we have doubled it,” he says

Stumbo told lawmakers the donations won’t be given to the Red Cross until Monday. So he encouraged those who haven’t given, or want to give more, to do so by then.

He says the General Assembly’s new goal is to raise an additional five thousand dollars over the weekend.

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FEMA Begins Taking Tornado Damage Claims In Ky. Disaster Areas

From Dan Conti, Kentucky Public Radio

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are in northern and eastern Kentucky, conducting damage assessments and helping tornado victims through the process of applying for federal assistance.

President Obama has issued a disaster declaration for seven counties, and more areas could be added as assessments continue.

“There’s no question about it, the damage is heartbreaking. It’s something that you never get used to. I often get the question, ‘Is this the worst you’ve ever seen?’ My opinion really doesn’t count too much, but the opinion that does count is the people who have been affected. It may be the worst they’ve ever seen,” said FEMA spokesman Jim Homstad, who’s on the ground in eastern Kentucky.

Officials say a 23rd Kentucky storm fatality has been confirmed. The body of an elderly Somerset woman was found this week in a closet at her home.

(Photo of tornado damage in East Bernstadt, Kentucky courtesy of Kentucky National Guard)

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Cleanup, Relief Efforts Underway In Hard-Hit West Liberty

From Chuck Mraz, Kentucky Public Radio

With the search for further victims officially over, the cleanup of tornado-ravaged downtown West Liberty is now fully underway.

Drexel Patrick is the chief of the Route 519 volunteer fire department in Morgan County. Patrick and his group mobilized quickly after the storm hit. Patrick says the massive amounts of debris downtown makes it look like West Liberty was bombed. The severe weather is blamed for seven deaths in Morgan County.

“They’re beginning to start to clean up a little now. I know I heard this morning, last night they had got Main Street cleaned off so you can get through it. It’s just hard to believe what’s up there,” he said.

Patrick says he’s never seen anything like it. He says crews are working to get power restored as quickly as possible in the West Liberty area. Many of those who lost their homes to the tornado are being sheltered at Morgan Central Elementary School.

(Photo courtesy of Kentucky National Guard)

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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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FEMA Storm Assistance Deadline Approaching

By Brenna Angel, Kentucky Public Radio

Victims of the early May storms in Kentucky now have about one week to register for possible federal assistance. FEMA spokesman Michael Skeels says the deadline is Monday, July 12.

“The registration period will close at 8 pm Eastern Daylight Time that day. So we’d like everyone in Kentucky who thinks they had a loss and they’re in a declared county to please give us a call because we can’t help you unless you’re registered,” he said.

The phone number to register is 1-800-621-FEMA. Storm victims can also sign up online. More than $18 million in federal grants has been distributed to Kentuckians stemming from the May flooding.

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Louisville's Catholic Charities Accepting Haiti Donations

Catholic Charities of Louisville spokesperson Bart Weigel says his organization will send donations on to the group’s international humanitarian agency, Catholic Relief Services, which was already well established in Haiti before the earthquake.

“I’m sure it will be several days before the CRS staff there on the ground can even determine the scope of the needs and obviously, food and water and basic necessities will be required,” he said.

Weigel says local donations in the form of a check or money order can be sent to:

Catholic Charities of Louisville

Haitian Earthquake

2911 South Fourth Street

Louisville, KY 40208

Donations can also be made online.

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Kentucky Group Organizing Haitian Earthquake Relief

From Charles Compton, Kentucky Public Radio/WEKU, Richmond

An agency based in Richmond, Kentucky is preparing a relief response to yesterday’s earthquake in Haiti.

Christian Flights International maintains a school in central Haiti for 1,100 students. Executive director Scott Mandl says his agency is accepting cash donations for earthquake relief…

“We’re going to be trying provide some extra relief and efforts to the folks that are involved with our mission and, of course, that will end up touching a lot of folks. Because we’re the main relief provider to a community of 25,000 and that’s just there in our area, but they will have lots of friends and family that we know will be affected by this,” Mandl said.

He says there are indications the facility escaped major damage, but, he has heard nothing about the well-being of students, staff members or their families. Christian Flights International sends missionaries from central Kentucky to Haiti. However, Mandl says none were in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.

Information on how to help Haiti’s earthquake victims can be found here.

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Red Cross Soliciting Disaster Relief Funds

The American Red Cross has launched a national campaign to replenish its disaster relief fund.

The effort to raise $100 million began in September, and officials say about $60 million has been collected thus far.  Logan McCulloch, the chief development officer for the Louisville Area Red Cross, says nationwide, the agency responded to 70 large scale disasters  this year.

They included Hurricane Ike, the remnants of which tore through this area in mid-September.

Immediately, the American Red Cross through this region was setting up shelters for people who were driven from their homes, had medical needs where they had to have power.  We  were even providing cots for utility workers that came from neighboring states so those utility workers could keep hooking up power.”

The Red Cross has designated Saturday a National Day of Giving. Volunteers will go door-to-door and work phone banks to raise money for the disaster relief fund.