Governor declares statewide emergency in Kentucky due to flooding, heavy rain

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on Monday officially declared a statewide emergency in response to heavy rains that caused flooding and infrastructure damage in many areas of the commonwealth.

The official announcement came from the governor’s office around 2:30 p.m. Monday. The order allows state resources to be put in motion to help cities and counties that need it. The announcement says the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management has gotten local state of emergency declarations from 36 counties and 11 cities.

Bevin’s office acknowledged that severe storms and heavy rains have created flooding conditions in western and central Kentucky “requiring record levels of water discharge, creating flooding conditions with enhanced threats to citizens and major impacts on infrastructure, governmental properties, commercial properties, agricultural production and private properties.”

The governor’s office’s announcement notes that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping fight flooding in Smithland in Livingston County in west Kentucky, as well as helping respond to record water releases at Wolf Creek Dam, which is in Jameston in Russell County in the Pennyrile region.

As a reminder, the governor’s office says to contact your local emergency management office to report flood damage and other weather-related damage.

Earlier Monday afternoon, the the Kentucky Department of Public Health released guidelines to help people prevent health and safety problems that can come with severe flooding and water runoff from heavy rains across the state. The department warns that, in addition to injuries people can face during flood cleanup or being out in flooded areas, flooding comes with food safety and mold concerns.

Dangers include tetanus, exposure to mold, and foodborne illnesses from loss of refrigeration during power outages.

The department’s recommendations are:

Flood Waters

During flood cleanup, the risk of incurring wounds may be increased. For this reason, cleanup workers should be sure that they are up-to-date with tetanus vaccination, ideally before starting cleanup activities. Adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Td or Tdap can be used; getting the Tdap instead of Td for one tetanus booster during adulthood is recommended to maintain protection against pertussis. Being up-to-date for tetanus vaccine can greatly simplify the treatment for any wound that might occur. Contact your regular health care provider or your local health department if you believe you may need a tetanus shot.

Flood-related drowning is also a danger, and often occurs when people become trapped by rising flood waters or when they voluntarily enter flooded areas. Never enter flood waters unless you are escaping immediate danger. Do not attempt to drive a vehicle through flood waters. Carefully monitor the weather conditions and water levels to avoid becoming surrounded by water.

Floods can damage utilities, leading to downed power lines and a risk of electrocution. Stay clear of damaged power lines. Natural gas and propane systems can produce dangerous gas leaks. If you smell gas, open doors and windows and evacuate the area.

Home Clean-up and Mold Removal

Use caution during clean-up activities. Wear proper safety equipment, such as work gloves, boots, helmets, eye and ear protection, and chainsaw chaps when operating power tools or machinery. Ensure all electrical tools are properly grounded and use ground fault interrupters (GFI) if available. Never use electrically powered tools in or near standing water.

Homeowners whose homes sustained water damage are urged to follow recommendations to limit mold growth. Mold fungi can be found indoors and outside and can accumulate in homes affected by flood/water damage. Mold grows best in warm, damp and humid conditions.

Signs of mold include discolored walls possibly showing water damage, or green or black spots apparent on walls. Mold also has a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench. Allergy sufferers tend to be most affected by mold exposure.

If mold is growing in your home, you will need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Severe mold cases may require an expert to clean up.

DPH recommends that doors and windows be open while cleaning affected areas. Use protective glasses or goggles, rubber boots and waterproof gloves and wash clothing afterwards. If there is heavy mold growth, use a respirator or suitable mask to prevent breathing the mold. Remove all wet items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and cannot be cleaned and dried.

Food Safety

DPH also cautions people to think about food safety if they have been affected by power outages. This includes keeping freezers closed to maintain the proper temperature for frozen foods. A freezer will hold its appropriate temperature for approximately 48 hours when full and for 24 hours when half full. If you have power outages, it is best to keep freezers closed to help keep frozen food from going bad.

Refrigerated foods should be safe as long as power is out for no more than four hours. Throw away any perishable food in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, lunchmeats, fish, dairy products, eggs and any prepared or cooked foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours.

The department notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about flood-related public health issues. For that information, click here.