More people will probably be making this decision when they realize how long and arduous the recovery will be, Mr. Weinberg said. And when they go, they will take tax revenue with them, leaving cash-strapped local governments with even less.
“It’ll be a partial government that does what they can, which won’t be much,” Mr. Weinberg said.
There are people and groups throughout the mountains — like Appalshop, the arts and cultural organization in Whitesburg that was badly damaged in the floods — that have been working for years to remake eastern Kentucky into a flourishing region that is no longer dependent on coal mines. The Kentucky governor, Andy Beshear, is already talking with lawmakers about a substantial flood relief package, and the FEMA administrator has pledged to assist in the recovery “as long as you need us.”
But unless Congress provides 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 whatever other help they can find. And many are asking how much there is left to preserve.
On Tuesday, Bill Rose, 64, was slowly shoveling away the mounds of mud outside the mechanic shop in Fleming-Neon where he and his brother like to tinker on old cars. Like so many others, he talked about the resilience people must have to live here. He said he was committed to staying.
“You build back,” he said.
But he made clear he was talking about himself. Not his children.
He was grateful when his daughter left for work as a nurse closer to Louisville, Ky. She loved it here but there was nothing for her — no jobs, no opportunities, nothing to do. After the cataclysm of last week, there was even less.
“My generation,” Mr. Rose said, “will probably be the last generation.”