Biden lands in Kentucky to inspect flooding that killed dozens

Biden lands in Kentucky to inspect flooding that killed dozens

President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden arrived in Kentucky Monday to meet with families and view storm damage that caused the worst flooding in Kentucky history.

At least 37 people have died since last month’s deluge, which dropped 8 to 10 1/2 inches of rain in just 48 hours. The National Weather Service said Sunday that flooding remains a threat and warned of more thunderstorms through Thursday.

The Bidens were warmly greeted by Gov. Andy Beshear and his wife, Britainy, when they arrived in eastern Kentucky. They immediately drove to see the storms’ devastation in Breathitt County, stopping at the spot where a school bus, swept away by flood waters, crashed into a partially collapsed building.

Later, they were scheduled to attend a flood impact briefing with first responders and recovery specialists at Marie Roberts Elementary School in Lost Creek and to tour another hard-hit community in the state and meet directly with those affected.

“They will receive an update on the response to the disaster, thank those on the front lines and share the pain of the community,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

Monday’s visit is Biden’s second to the state since taking office last year. He previously visited in December after tornadoes ripped through Kentucky, killing 77 people and leaving a trail of destruction.

“I wish I could tell you why we keep getting hit here in Kentucky,” Beshear said recently. “I wish I could tell you why areas where people don’t have much continue to get hit and lose everything. I can’t tell you why, but I know what we do in response to it. And the answer is all we can. These are our people. Let’s make sure we help them.”

Biden has expanded federal disaster assistance to Kentucky, ensuring that the federal government will cover the full cost of debris removal and other emergency measures.

Jean-Pierre said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided more than $3.1 million in relief funds and hundreds of rescue personnel have been deployed to help.

“The flooding in Kentucky and extreme weather across the country are yet another reminder of the intensifying and accelerating impacts of climate change and the urgent need to invest in making our communities more resilient to it,” he said.

The flooding came just a month after Beshear visited Mayfield to celebrate the completion of the first houses to be fully built since a tornado nearly leveled the town. Three families were given the keys to their new homes that day, and the governor in his remarks referred to a visit he had made immediately afterwards.

“I made a promise that day that while we had been knocked down, we hadn’t been eliminated,” Beshear said. “That we would get up again and get ahead. And six months to the day, we’re not just up, we’re not just standing, we’re moving forward.”

Now more disasters are testing the state. Beshear has been to eastern Kentucky as many times as the weather allowed since the flooding began. He has held hour-long daily press conferences to provide details, including a full range of victim assistance. Just like after the tornadoes, Beshear opened relief funds that went directly to people in besieged regions.

A Democrat, Beshear narrowly defeated a Republican incumbent in 2019 and is seeking a second term in 2023.

Polls have consistently shown him with strong approval ratings from Kentucky residents. But several prominent Republicans have entered the gubernatorial race, taking turns criticizing the governor for his aggressive response to the pandemic and trying to link him to Biden and rising inflation.

Beshear frequently comments on the toll that rising inflation is taking a toll on the budgets of Kentucky residents. She avoids blaming Biden and instead points to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and supply chain bottlenecks as contributors to rising costs to the consumer.

Ben Oakley
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