More than 350 homes damaged in WV floods

BY DARYL LANG | WEST VIRGINIA | July 10, 1998


People in some parts of West Virginia are again discovering how three days

of flooding can turn into months of cleanup.

After high water, flash flooding and heavy winds the last weekend of June,

families are assessing the damage to their homes and turning to their

communities for support.

"West Virginia people are very close-knit," said Shirley Norman, a Regional

Disaster Response Facilatator for Church World Service. "There's a lot of

taking care of each other's needs."

Norman said some communities stayed self-sufficient for several days while

waiting for roads to reopen. She described one woman who lost the roof on

her house in high winds, and immediately sought help from her neighbors to

make repairs before the inside of her house was also ruined.

In total, the storms destroyed 199 homes and seriously damaged 356 others,

according to the American Red Cross. Twenty-four counties in West Virginia

were declared state disaster areas, and six were declared federal disaster

areas.

At the suggestion of House Speaker Bob Kiss, Governor Cecil H. Underwood

called for a special session of the state legislature, starting next week,

to deal with the floods.

"This flooding happened in the same areas where it happened a year ago,"

which makes it important for the state to address it right away, said Rod

Blackstone, a spokesman for the governor's office.

The 1996 flooding occurred in March, when the state legislature was still

in session.

West Virginia has had so many disaster declarations in the past year that

it has gained an unusual reputation as a state that knows how to deal with

a disaster, said Richard Krajeski, a CWS disaster resource consultant.

In rural areas, flooding washed out many "orphan" roads and bridges, which

earn their name because often no one will claim official responsibility for

maintaining them, Krajeski said.

Without these roads and bridges, some homes are cut off from main roads. In

addition, flooding washed out hanging footbridges that some families need

to reach their houses.

Much of the serious damage hit poor areas, including 168 mobile homes that

were destroyed, Norman said.

The flooding also contaminated countless wells and ruined vegetable gardens

that some families depend on for food.

These communities are often hesitant to turn to outside organizations for

help, leaving their local churches as the greatest means of support, Norman

said.

Some interfaith groups are still in place from previous floods, Norman

said, and the state VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) is

helping coordinate resources for each county.

Norman lamented the lack of attention devoted to the floods, especially

compared to the recent Florida fires that destroyed fewer homes, but said

the strong communities were pulling together.

"Those people will survive. They're survivors in West Virginia," she said.

Posted July 10, 1998


Related Topics:

Solutions for flood insurance

How US flood insurance works

Volunteers build a Christmas present


More links on Flooding

Advertisers:

DNN Sponsors include:

Advertisements: