Frankfort, Ky. - Preliminary damage estimates - based primarily on utility damage - caused by the winter storm that ravaged Kentucky last week exceed $45 million, and Gov. Steve Beshear is asking the federal government to render even more aid.

Beshear asked President Barack Obama on Monday to declare Kentucky a “major disaster,” and to declare the state meets qualifications for 100 reimbursement of state costs during the first seven days of the disaster. If he does, the federal government would pick up the costs of overtime pay, debris removal and the cost of purchasing generators during those first seven days. Thereafter, the federal government would pay 75 percent with the state picking up the balance.

He’s also asking Obama to place the Kentucky National Guard on federal status. Beshear would remain in command but the federal government would pay all the costs of guard expenditures, including payroll, of the emergency response. Beshear has activated almost all the Kentucky National Guard to help in the recovery effort and some are working in every Kentucky county.

Their primary mission is to conduct door-to-door checks and followup on residents throughout the state. Brigadier Gen. John Heltzel, director of the Division of Emergency Management, said the first round of those checks should be complete in the next couple of days. A Guard military police battalion has also been sent to western Kentucky to discourage looting.

Beshear said there have been some “scattered reports” of looting in places like Muhlenberg and McCracken counties but the reports ceased almost immediately when the MPs arrived on the scene, Heltzel said. He said food commodities and water are being delivered to “every community that’s asked for it.”

Generators have been delivered to all nursing homes; hospitals have power; and the state is attempting to get water and sewer treatment plants without power back on line.

“We’re beginning to make substantial progress in getting communities back on their feet,” Beshear said, but the “breadth” of the disaster – “from the Mississippi River in the west to Boyd County in the east” - increases the difficulty, he said. “We’re doing much better in central Kentucky and the metropolitan areas but conditions are still pretty dire in western Kentucky.”

He said the biggest problem continues to be the scope of power outages, noting the number of major transmission lines, which often run through sparsely populated and hard to reach area, that are down and the time and difficulty involved in locating the break and moving equipment and personnel to the site to repair the line.

The number without power was down to 255,000 Monday afternoon, down from a peak of 700,000 last Thursday. He said there are 24 confirmed deaths from the storm, 10 by carbon monoxide poisoning from alternative fuel sources and the rest from hypothermia and accidents. He expects because of the length of the crisis and continuing winter weather that number is likely to increase. There are 165 emergency shelters housing 7,300, another number which is likely to grow as cold temperatures continue.

Beshear said he is “well satisfied” with the performance and effort of the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA, which was heavily criticized during the response to Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast.

“Nothing ever happens as fast as you’d like it to,” Beshear said, “but I’m well satisfied. Everybody is putting forth 110 percent effort.” He said Obama has been quick to respond to Kentucky’s need for assistance.

“I have been extremely pleased with the quick response by President Obama and his administration.” Beshear said.

The $45 million damage figure is almost entirely based on estimates of damage by utility companies, and is likely to go much higher, Beshear said. Heltzel said actual damage assessment will begin after emergency needs have been provided and Obama issues the “major disaster” declaration.

This is a list of utility damages in selected counties from western to eastern Kentucky showing the widespread damage caused by last week's winter storms.

State officials say preliminary estimates of damages from the winter storm exceed $45 million already and is almost certain to grow dramatically.

All but $43 million of the $45 million is based on damages suffered by utility companies and does not include the cost to state and local governments of emergency response, debris removal and clean up. The figure was compiled by utility companies to help the state quickly meet threshold requirements for federal assistance, Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday.

Here are some comparisons of some of the utility damage estimates by county. Remember, the amounts reflect only utility damages and not the scope of damage in any county:

Ballard County - $283,000

Caldwell County - $586,000

Carter County - $725,000

Daviess County - $3,655,000

Elliott County - $600,000

Floyd County - $700,000

Garrard County - $267.000

Grayson County - $366.000

Greenup County - $700,000

Henderson Co. - $1,709,000

Hopkins County - $920,000

Lawrence County - $225.000

Lincoln County - $265,500

Madison County - $541,000

McCracken Co. - $1,311,000

Rockcastle Co. - $160,000

Rowan County - $300,000



RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com.

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