About four vans pulled into the parking lot at Rogers Funeral Home off U.S. 119 yesterday afternoon, carrying Gov. Steve Beshear, Congressman Hal Rogers, Kentucky Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, State Sen. Ray Jones, Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford, State Rep. Leslie Combs, and State Rep. Keith Hall and others. Pike County Schools Superintendent Roger Wagner and Utility Management Group Chief Operating Officer Greg May, managing company of Pike’s water system, were among the Ky. National Guards and security personnel aboard the vans with four ti five rows of seats.
The group had started their tour of the flood-stricken county at Hardy, May said, and went to Jerry Bottom at Huddy and back to Belfry.
“It’s a real mess. We got a lot of cleanup to do,” said Gov. Beshear, hinting at the reason for the visit. Congressman Rogers said his tour started at Richmond, Ky., where a tornado ripped through the community and killed a man and woman when it blew their trailer into a pond.
The flooding which wrecked havoc on southwestern West Virginia and eastern Ky., damaging thousands of homes, has not resulted in any fatalities, unless officials blame the natural disaster for the death of a Gilbert firefighter, who had a heart attack while providing aid to flood victims.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin spent Monday touring Mingo and Wyoming, two of the six counties in which he declared a State of Emergency. Although a federal disaster declaratiion had not been made as of Tuesday evening, Manchin sad he expected it would at least include Mingo, Wyoming and McDowell counties.
Manchin sid he wanted southern West Virginians affected by flooding to know they are not alone in their recovery efforts.
“Any time your home is uprooted as it has been for so many of our citizens with this flooding, it’s important to knw that you’re not alone. We are here to help and they’re not by themselves.”
This is the principal behind the visit Tuesday from more Kentucky politicians than seen at Fancy Farm, a western Kentucky village in Graves County where an annual picnic held the first Saturday in August has come to represent the traditional starting point of the fall campaign season in Kentucky. So many Kentucky politicians show up that it tends to newsworthy only when a major candidate doesn’t make an appearance, such as Sen. Jim Bunning in 2007.
Speaking for his fellow elected and state government officials, Beshear told a local couple he couldn’t remember seeing so much mud and the people would go through a long process of recovering.
“We’re gonna be here with them until we get everything done and they get back on their feet,” Beshear said.
Residents were cleaning yesterday along the area Rogers Funeral Home co-owner Connie Caines called the main Belfry area. Business in the area was affected along with residential structures, including Rogers Funeral Home which had not previously been flooded since the business was built in 1950, said co-owner Mike Hall.
The people who are accustomed to supporting others dealing with loss were addressing the mess left by 18 inches of water.
“We just have to do the best we can right now,” Caines said.
The funeral home is still offering services, Baxter said, adding, “We won’t shut down for no reason. We may have to alter our plans, but we have had several local churches offer assistance.”
A storm response business out of Cincinnati, Ohio called Teasdale Fenton were assisting Hall and Caines with cleanup.
“I guess you could call us storm chasers,” said Joe Moody. “We go wherever there is a disaster, all over the country.”
Some of the company’s 40 employees are still in Houston, Texas, where the job was two weeks ago, Moody said. The business deals mostly with the infrastructure of a disaster area, co-owner Mike Baxter said, adding the company would be assessing damages at the Belfry United Methodist Church, where the basement was flooded, and some of the company’s men are working at the Gilbert High School.
“That way the town can get up and running again,” Baxter said, adding anyone needing assistance can call the Teasdale Fenton’s emergency line at (513) 325-4117.
Several men were working on clearing the basement and garage of Sonya Hatfield’s house, which was also flooded by the overflowing banks of Pond Creek, water which got the basement at Speedway. Although the store’s sale’s area remained dry, business was still interrupted, as the boil water advisory meant no fountain drinks, coffee or hot food.
Freddie McCoy, owner of Freddie’s Floral, was not so lucky, as he spent the day going from his business by Hatfield’s house, cleaning a room flooded by Pond Creek, to his home across U.S. 119, which suffered damages from a combination of surface and back water. The foot of water invading his home first came from the surface of U.S. 119, which McCoy said he thinks came from drains not working properly. Speeding traffic pushed the water over the roads edge and into his and neighbors homes, McCoy said, asserting there has always been a problem with speeders in the area. And drivers don’t pay any attention to the fact it is a school zone, Hatfield said.
“We couldn’t work the other day for people flying and splashing mud,” McCoy said.
After the surface water came back water, which came up from Hatcher Street, Hatfield said, and invaded the entire roll of homes along U.S. 119, as well as Belfry Middle School.