KNOTT COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) — The rebuilding process continues one year after historic floods hit eastern Kentucky.
However, on Wednesday, one eastern Kentucky family got to witness the final frame go up on their new home.
It was made possible by two nonprofit organizations, the Christian Appalachian Project and the Appalachian Services Project.
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Through generous donations, the two groups also known as CAP and ASP are teaming up to help the Ritchies and nine other families rebuild the homes they lost one year ago. Those homes washed away in Knott, Perry, Letcher, and Pike Counties.
Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacquelyn Coleman was at the dedication of the home Wednesday, and in her speech, she said 43 lives were lost in the historic eastern Kentucky floods, and The American Red Cross estimated over 2,300 homes were destroyed beyond repair.
Among them was Reggie and Della Ritchie’s home.
Ritchies said on the night of the flood, the powerful waters picked up their home and washed it down the highway.
Ritchie also said seven of his neighbors lost their lives.
However, community partners like CAP and ASP are among the reasons why the Ritchie family is deciding to stay and build back their home even stronger than before.
“My neighbors are my family,” Ritchie said. “That’s why we decided that we wanted to not move. We want to stay here. I couldn’t leave my family, and we’re closer now than we were before the flood.”
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Grant Vermilya, a flood recovery coordinator with the Appalachian Services Project, said Ritchie’s new home is elevated two feet higher than their first home.
“We use rebar, and the mortar we use is more resilient. To floodwaters. And we also put FEMA-engineered flood vents in the crawl spaces. So if water is ever to hit those, they fall out, and the water is able to flow out of the foundations,” Vermilya said.
Coleman added that the state of Kentucky is not just building back homes to be more resilient to flooding, but the state is investing in improving infrastructure as well to ensure floodwaters don’t carry homes away like last year again.
“We’re making it better and to doing it smarter. We’re investing in infrastructure like clean water, better roads, and bridges — all of those things that are going to really make a difference,” Coleman said.
Della Ritchie steps into the completed frames of her house and can already imagine what it will look like in the next two months, when it’s expected to be completed.
“I can’t wait to get my shelves up on my walls and my couches,” Ritchie said. “Put in my beds and my bathroom and be able to have that sense of I’m home. I can’t wait, and I’m going to have a cookout for the community. I want them to come home and be with us.”