On July 28, 2022, parts of Eastern Kentucky suffered the greatest disaster in its recorded history. On that tragic night, up to 12 inches of rain fell on the mountains of East Kentucky over a short period of time. When such a large amount of rain happens in such a short period of time, the water begins to fill up the mountain streams, which race to the bottom to the valleys or what we call hollers. These creeks can’t handle that amount of water, so it quickly moved into places it has never been before. No one in my lifetime has seen such a tragic flooding event.
The response from our federal politicians has been disappointing to say the least. They came in and did their photo shoots, but they never went to areas where people who lost everything are sleeping in tents and cars with their families. I know of one guy who says he got enough disaster money for one week in a hotel. Then he and his wife and three kids will be moving to a car. I spoke to a single mother of two kids who lost her mobile home containing every possession she owned in life and now lives in a 10 foot by 10 foot storage shed that consists of only a bed with no electricity or running water or place to use the restroom. She said she and her two kids don’t even have a lantern to see at night.
The American Red Cross estimates that 1,400 family homes were destroyed that tragic night. The Kentucky River crested 18 feet above flood stage and many people who lived along that river are now living in pop-up tents. I saw one guy in Perry County who has his tent set up on top of a trampoline to get away from the copperheads and rattlesnakes. I could tell you countless examples of the primitive and inhumane conditions that a large number of people in East Kentucky are having to endure since the flood happened over two weeks ago. There are stories of tent cities set up in some counties, as some have done for protection with strength in numbers. The confirmed deaths so far in this tragic event has risen to 39 people with some people still missing .
Sadly, a couple weeks after the flooding disaster happened we ran into a second disaster which in some ways was as bad as the first. This disaster is called FEMA. FEMA came into Eastern Kentucky and gave people false hope that they were here to help, almost a feeling that the cavalry was coming. Sadly it was the exact opposite. What we have seen here is governmental bureaucracy at its worst and a clear message that FEMA and the US government do not care about the people of Eastern Kentucky. I have seen a woman lose her home and every possession she owned who got approved for a FEMA check of $176.50. I saw one person who basically lost their $200,000 home and got approved for $18,000. Sadly that is the largest check that I know that FEMA has written. FEMA has intentionally tried to lowball people and then tell them they can appeal three times like it is some kind of game. It’s remarkable to me that the United States can give Ukraine $54 billion dollars this year and then offer a lady who lost her home $176.50. But it is apparent that our government and the people we send to Washington to represent us do not care about Eastern Kentucky and its people or they would be having special called meetings in Washington with the head of FEMA to explain this.
Some people outside the area may ask why FEMA is so important here, and why we just don’t file claims with our insurance companies. A small percentage of homes even qualify to be eligible to purchase flood insurance as they are not in the original flood plain, and those who do qualify can hardly afford it as it is up to 10 times the cost —typically a $50,000 flood insurance policy can cost $4,000 a year through FEMA and it can’t be paid on a payment basis like regular car or home insurance. Other disasters like tornadoes or wildfires are covered under a person’s home insurance so when those tragedies happen those people can build a new home. The people of Eastern Kentucky don’t get that same treatment. It’s estimated that up to 90% of the people affected by this event did not have flood insurance, so there is no one to help since FEMA has proven they are not going to be of any assistance. Sadly for our people there is no cavalry coming! Hundreds of people have lost everything they have worked their whole life for and have to completely start over. What a sad thing that would be for anyone. And just as tragic is the government that is supposed to protect you turns its back on you when you need them most.
Tim Short is a longtime resident of Knott County and owner of Tim Short Auto Group.