Rain compounds WV, KY flood woes

Volunteers help hundreds of residents whose homes were damaged in Mother's Day weekend flooding


Volunteers help a resident in Varney, WV clean damaged insulation and drywall out of a flood-damaged home following the flooding of early May.
Credit: FEMA/Louis Sohn

Thundershowers are forecast again this week as Williamson, in Mingo County, and villages in nearby Kentucky continue cleaning up from the devastating flooding that hit over the Mother’s Day weekend.

The Rev. Ferd Gavina, pastor of the Fifth Avenue Church of Christ, is working to help organize volunteers with Baptist and United Methodist congregations.

“This week they’re calling for rain, and some are still dealing with the devastation,” he said.

FEMA has arrived and is starting to help those seeking assistance after heavy rains rushed down the Appalachians a month ago, an area of steep slopes dominated by the coal industry.

Hundreds of homes were either destroyed or damaged in West Virginia and Kentucky communities.

Gavina’s congregation has about 50 people. In February, the region was hit with ice and wind storms, and in May, a family in Gavina’s congregation had their basement filled with mud.

“It was right up to the ceiling in mud,” he said.

The communities that have been burdened by the weather, Williamson said, have also hit by higher unemployment.

Sherry Buresh, the director of disaster relief for the Christian Applachian Project and vice-chair of Kentucky VOAD helped a group with a muck-out in Floyd County, Kentucky, after the storms hit last month.

Buresh said committees are now being assembled to help with the long-term recovery.

But the current recovery has been compounded by the ice and windstorms that struck in late January and early February.

“They were recovering from that,” she said. “It’s a mess.”

In Martin, Kentucky, Gary Mitchell, pastor of the Martin Church of Christ, had a handful of families affected by the storm. The church basement was flooded, but as others recover from the storm, the church and its congregants too are moving forward.

“We’re ready to put things back together,” he said.

FEMA has opened offices Jackson, Breathitt County, KY, Langley in Floyd County, Booneville in Owsley County and in Belfry in Pike County, staffed with representatives to help those affected the storms.

Volunteers from the Mennonite Disaster Service responded in Clayhole, Breathitt County, by mucking out the Bethel Mennonite Camp, and then helped elsewhere in nearby communities.

In Breathitt County, it is estimated 600 homes were damaged and another 150 destroyed by the flooding and the mudslides.

A telethon conducted by WYMT-TV raised about $50,000 in late May for those living in Breathitt. Floyd, Lee, Owsley and Pike counties.

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