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Flash floods strike WV

Unrelenting heavy rain since last Wednesday has caused a series of flash floods in Kanawha County, W. Va., that continued to plague the area today.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | KANAWHA COUNTY, W. Va. | June 17, 2003


"It flooded places you wouldn't believe."

—Bill White


Unrelenting heavy rain since last Wednesday has caused a series of flash floods in Kanawha County, W. Va., that continued to plague the area today.

More than 463 homes in the county particularly between Charleston, W. Va., and Clendenin 20 miles to the northeast have been damaged or destroyed by the floods, said Scott Jarrett, an American Red Cross spokesman. About 850 homes in four other counties Boone, Logan, Putnam and McDowell were also affected, Jarret said.

"It's been going for like a week," added Kanawha County Emergency Management Director Bill White. "It's just been one storm after another."

While the rain has been nearly continuous, the floods have come in waves, he said.

"The flooding receded almost immediately," he said. "Our floods don't last very long. They're just really vicious."

Flash flooding in nothing new to Kanawha County the county has been declared a disaster area at least once a year since 1997. But White said this is the most widespread flash flooding he has seen in years.

"It flooded places you wouldn't believe," he said.

Both The Salvation Army and American Red Cross were providing emergency assistance to flood survivors, according to Patty Tilley, social services director for The Salvation Army in Charleston.

Over a hundred people were housed in the Charleston Civic Center during the height of the flooding, but this emergency shelter closed on Monday, Jarrett said. The Red Cross has four mobile kitchens providing meals to victims and relief workers and has set up two case management centers. More than a hundred people are being put up in local motels at the expense of the Red Cross, he said.

A group of American Baptist Men based in Belle, W. Va., are also active in recovery work, said Buren "Sparky" Sparks, who is coordinating their work from the Belle Volunteer Fire Department.

Sparks said his volunteers starting helping out last week by cleaning mud out of homes and yards. But they switched to "rescue mode" on Monday when flooding got particularly bad.

While his neighborhood in Belle hasn't been affected, Sparks has a personal connection in this disaster: his son-in-law, David Armstrong, was the driver of a Federal Express truck that floated away in the flooding. This incident was captured on videotape and aired on several national television stations.

Sparks said the biggest problem he is having with his volunteers is figuring out where to send them next.

"There are just so many floods that our hardest job right now is trying to prioritize because it's just so widespread," he said.

The Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association has also been actively involved in disaster response helping rescue animals in their own animal shelter. All the animals had to be moved upstairs to keep them out of the way of the flood waters, according to the association.


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