Flooded WV town surprised when people came to help

BY PJ HELLER | REEDY, W. Va | January 29, 1999

REEDY, W. Va (Jan. 29, 1999) - Besides death and taxes, there were always

two other things that residents of this small rural community could count

on: flooding and the fact that help would be slow in coming, if at all.

But after battling flood waters once again last week, residents discovered

that someone did care enough to help.

"I didn't used to believe in angels, but I guess I do now," said Sam

Salvucci, the mayor of this hamlet of about 300 people.

The "angels" were in the form of disaster response teams from the United

Methodist Church and American Baptist Men. UMC delivered a truck filled

with cleaning supplies, which is scheduled to return next week loaded with

furniture and household goods. American Baptist Men provided a crew of six

men which helped clean up two residences that were damaged by water and mud

from last Thursday's flooding.

Located at the confluence of three streams (Reedy Creek and the Middle Fork

and Right Fork of Reedy Creek), it doesn't take much rain before the creeks

overflow their banks and flood the town.

"They've always had floods here but in the past they didn't call them

floods, they called them 'high water,'" Salvucci said. "The creeks would

come up and the water would get into Main Street. It really wasn't that big

of a deal most of the time. But it seems like in the last three years,

we've had a big change in our weather here and the flooding has become much

more severe."

The town, in fact, has suffered flooding four times in the last three

years, Salvucci reported. Other residents recall flooding nearly every year

for the past 17 or 18 years.

The most recent flood occurred when more than two inches of rain fell in a

six-hour period on the area, causing the creeks to again spill their banks

and damage more than two dozen homes and businesses. Some residents had to

be evacuated by boats manned by the volunteer fire department. They spent

the night at Reedy Elementary School.

The water was so high that it covered the roof of a truck which had stalled

on Main Street. Water in one of the town's two general stores was 14 inches

deep; the other store had water four inches deep, Salvucci reported.

By Friday, the water had receded, leaving in its wake rotting and warping

wood, ruined appliances and ruined carpeting.

On Saturday, responding to a plea from the American Red Cross, Buren

Sparks, state disaster relief coordinator for American Baptist Men,

gathered a small crew and headed to Reedy. There, they cleaned out one

house owned by an 84-year-old woman, pulling up muddy and water-soaked

carpets and pressure-washing tools, shelves and porches at the residence.

They also helped clean the mobile home of a 67-year-old woman, who was

living in the trailer without heat, electricity, gas or running water. They

were able to convince her -- which others could not -- that the mobile home

was uninhabitable.

"We were so concerned about her that we said we would try to get up a down

payment for another trailer," Sparks said.

The Red Cross was seeking new housing for the woman.

Sparks said residents had managed to clean up the other homes affected by

the flood by the time his crew arrived.

Residents and the cleanup team piled the ruined carpets, rugs, appliances

and other household goods in a vacant lot in the town.

As of Tuesday night, all but three of the families had returned to their

homes. The three families were being housed at a motel by the Red Cross.

"I think a couple of them probably won't be back," Salvucci said. "They're

just tired of the same situation happening."

No fatalities or injuries were reported in the town. One traffic fatality

was reported about nine miles away, when a 27-year-old woman died after her

car was found upside down in a rain-swollen creek, according to the Roane

County Sheriff's Department.

Salvucci said few Reedy residents had flood insurance to cover their

losses. "For the most part, these were people who can't afford to be in the

national flood insurance program," he said. "Most of them don't have

anywhere else to go," he added.

Nor do they have anywhere to look for help. The Federal Emergency

Management Agency said the flooding was not widespread enough to qualify

for federal assistance, Salvucci said, although the agency did offer some

assistance when heavy flooding occurred in 1997.

The Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study on the flooding a few years

ago but concluded that the cost of the work wasn't justified based on the

number of people living in the area, Salvucci said. He said the state was

now considering a plan to widen the creek.

"We're the smallest incorporated town in West Virginia," he said. "I guess

people just don't think we're important enough to do anything about this


Not so, as far as Ed Hood is concerned.

Hood, the western (W. Va.) district disaster coordinator for the United

Methodist Church, heard about flooding in Reedy over the weekend and swung

into action, driving 150 miles out of his way to assess the situation in

the town. He then delivered a truck filled with cleaning supplies and

provided advice to residents on how to go about drying out their homes.

"It wasn't a big disaster but it was forgotten," Hood said. "No one had

ever been there to explain to them what they had to do to clean up."

Hood said he expects to return to the town early next week, this time with

a truck filled with furniture, carpet and other household goods for the

residents there.

Salvucci, who teaches at the nearby Spencer Middle School, said he was

initially surprised when he spotted Hood's truck parked in front of the

town's community center. Hood told Salvucci to distribute the supplies to

families in town.

"I told him to distribute it however he wants," Hood said. "He knows the

people and knows who has the need."

"We're kind of monitoring the situation down here to see if they need

anything else," added the Rev. Bill Haynes of Stephenson United Methodist

Church in Parkersburg and a disaster relief coordinator for the district.

Posted Jan. 29, 1999

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