How coal mining and years of neglect left Kentucky cities on the mercy of floods

More people will likely make that decision when they realize how long and difficult the recovery will be, Mr. Weinberg said. And when they leave, they will take tax revenue with them, leaving cash-strapped local authorities with even less.

“It’s going to be a piecemeal government that will do what it can, and it won’t be much,” Mr. Weinberg said.

All over the mountains, there are people and groups — like Appalshop, an arts and culture organization in Whitesburg that was hit hard by the flooding — who have been working for years to make Eastern Kentucky a prosperous region free from coal mining. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear is already talking to lawmakers a large flood relief packageand the FEMA Administrator promised to help during recovery “as long as you need us”.

But unless Congress provides additional money to help people rebuild or replace their homes, it’s a process may take a year, if that happens at all – many flood victims will have to rely on savings, charity or any other assistance. And many ask how much is left to save.

On Tuesday, Bill Rose, 64, slowly dug through mounds of dirt outside the mechanic shop in Fleming-Neon, where he and his brother like to work on 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’re building backwards,” he said.

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

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

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

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