WV homes damaged

West Virginia's 17th flood of the year left at least 1,848 homes damaged or destroyed.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | November 21, 2003

"Twenty-nine counties at this time are in a state of emergency."

—David Hogue

West Virginia's 17th flood of the year was subsiding Friday, leaving at last 1,848 homes damaged or destroyed across the state, according to Bonnie Mallott at the Presbyterian-affiliated West Virginia Ministry of Advocacy and Workcamps.

That does not include the more than 700 homes damaged in flooding last week, Mallott added.

With rivers still at flood stage Friday and many roads still closed, damage tallies will likely grow, agreed faith-based responders and state emergency management officials.

This week, in a 24-hour period, many areas of the state received between two and four inches of rain on already-saturated soil.

Flooding has occurred all over the state, said David Hogue of the American Red Cross. "It's really unreal."

Of the 1,848 homes affected, 180 are destroyed, he said, and 575 more have major damage. "Twenty-nine counties at this time are in a state of emergency," Hogue said as he met with representatives of faith-based and voluntary agencies Friday.

The community of Richwood, in Nicholas County, was particularly hard hit, agreed Mallott and Hogue. The Richwood Presbyterian Church reported there are 350-400 homes with damage, several of which went down the river. Almost 100 families visited the Richwood Food and Clothing Pantry Thursday to collect cleaning supplies, food and blankets.

Christ Kitchen an ecumenical food pantry open two days a week has been feeding about 50 people on the days it is open.

Another hard-hit community is Rainelle, in Greenbrier County. Around 400 homes there are damaged, according to Fred Duffield of the American Baptists who are working in Glenville and Rainelle,

"I also understand that around 200 homes are damaged in Morgantown," added Mallott.

Faith-based disaster response groups are able to bring both experience and compassion to West Virginia, said Mallott. "We are able to participate in the immediate response, pumping mud and water from basements and helping with cleanup," she said.

But, she added, "our primary area of coverage is in the long-term recovery.

"After flood survivors have gone through American Red Cross and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] for assistance, they come to the regional Long-Term Flood Recovery Committee where they find us. This is when we assist them with funds for needs that are still unmet as well as volunteer labor provided by our workcamps."

The Long-Term Flood Recovery Committee will be accepting volunteer work groups as soon as Dec. 1, said Mallott. She went on to explain that "...the other very significant way that you can help is to contribute to the long-term recovery funding to help survivors with building materials, appliances, furnaces, septic systems and the list goes on."

Representatives from Church World Service were communicating with local clergy and leaders of regional faith-based and voluntary disaster response agencies to plan a long-term response.

Although West Virginia was hit hardest by storms that swept the Mid-Atlantic, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee were assessing damages, too.

In Council, Va., in Buchanan County a wall of water from a rain-swollen creek broke through a culvert and swept away five mobile homes and six vehicles.

In Pennsylvania, according to preliminary damage assessments, at least 125 homes were affected in Greene County, 100 in Blair County, and 100 in West Moreland County, said Maria Smith, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

In Tennessee, areas of Carter County that were hit in 1998 were again flooded, said Kurt Pickering, spokesperson for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency.

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