How coal mining and years of neglect left Kentucky towns at the mercy of flooding

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

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

There are people and groups across the mountains — like Appalshop, the arts and culture organization in Whitesburg that was badly damaged by the floods — who have been working for years to remake eastern Kentucky into a thriving region that no longer dependent on coal mining. Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear is already talking to lawmakers about a major flood relief package, and FEMA Administrator pledged to help in recovery “as long as you need us”.

But unless Congress provides additional funds for people to rebuild or replace their homes — a process that can take years, if that happens — many flood victims will have to rely on savings, charity or other help they can find. And many wonder how much remains to be preserved.

Bill Rose, 64, was slowly shoveling mounds of mud outside the Fleming-Neon mechanic shop where he and his brother like to tinker with old cars on Tuesday. Like so many others, he spoke of the resilience people need to have to live here. He said he was committed to staying.

“You rebuild,” he said.

But he made it clear that he was speaking for himself. Not his children.

He was grateful when his daughter left to work as a nurse closer to Louisville, Kentucky. She loved this place, 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, “will probably be the last generation.”

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