How Coal Mining and Years of Neglect Left Kentucky Cities on the Mercy of Floods

More people are likely to make this decision once they realize how long the recovery will be, Mr. Weinberg said. And when they go, they’ll take tax revenue with them, leaving local governments even less cash-strapped.

“It’s a partial government that will do what they can, which won’t be much,” Mr. Weinberg said.

Across the mountains are people and groups – like Appalshop, the arts and cultural organization in Whitesburg that was badly damaged in the floods – who have been working for years to remake eastern Kentucky into a thriving region that doesn’t depend on coal mines no more. Kentucky governor Andy Beshear is already talking to lawmakers about it a significant flood relief packageand the FEMA administrator It is promised to help in recovery “as long as you need us.”

But if Congress does not provide additional money for people to rebuild or replace their homes – a process that can take years, if it happens at all — many flood victims will have to rely on savings, charity or any other help they can get. And many are asking how much is left to conserve.

On Tuesday, Bill Rose, 64, was slowly clearing the mounds of mud outside a mechanic shop in Fleming-Neon where he and his brother like to tinker with old cars. Like many others, he talked about the resilience people have to have to live here. He said he was committed to staying.

“You take it back,” he said.

But he made it clear that he was talking about himself. Not his family.

He was grateful when his daughter left to work as a nurse closer to Louisville, Ky. He loved her here but there was nothing for her — no jobs, no opportunities, nothing to do. After last week’s cataclysm, there were even fewer.

“My generation,” Mr. Rose said, “is probably the last generation.”

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